The term “aphasia” comes from the greek roots -a, meaning not, and -phanai, meaning speech. Aphasia is a disorder that occurs after brain damage to speech-related centers of the brain. Individuals with aphasia struggle to communicate (though the nature of this struggle depends on the type of aphasia) (Johns Hopkins University, 2021; Mayo Clinic, 2020; NICD, 2017). Today, we are going to talk about the first identified case of aphasia!
Louis Victor Leborgne was born in 1809 in Moret-sur-Loing, France. Leborgne was diagnosed with epilepsy at a young age, but lived a relatively normal life, up until he turned 30. At this time, Leborgne became unable to speak, left only able to produce the syllable “tan,” and was rushed to a parisian hospital, where he would live out the remaining 21 years of his life (Konnikova, 2013).
At the hospital, Leborgne was treated by a famous french physician and language specialist, Dr. Paul Broca. After Leborgne’s death, his brain was dissected and a significant amount of damage was found in the left posterior inferior frontal gyrus (a small section of the bottom lower portion of the frontal lobe). This portion of the brain would later be named “Broca’s Area,” and damage to it leads to a condition (Broca’s Aphasia) that causes extreme difficulty in the production of normal speech(Cezary, 2013; Konnikova, 2013).
Today, there is more debate on which adjacent structures comprise Broca’s area, but it is clear that this portion of the brain plays a large role in the production, and to a lesser extent comprehension, of speech (Dronkers et al., 2007).