Broca's Area & Wernicke's Area: Speech and Language


The ability to communicate is an essential part of our lives as human beings. Our nervous system has two dedicated areas that allow us to communicate. The production of speech takes place in Broca’s area located in the frontal lobe. However, the interpretation of speech happens elsewhere. Wernicke’s area – located in the temporal lobe – processes what is being spoken. Information from Wernicke’s area can then send information to Broca’s area, which allows us to reply by organizing words in grammatical sentences.


TL; DR

  • The forebrain, midbrain and hindbrain are three distinct parts of the brain. 
  • The cerebrum is further classified in distinct lobes that as groups areas of the brain by their location and function. 
  • The hindbrain consists of structures at the base of the brain including the cerebellum, the medulla and pons. 


Author: OpenStax | License: CC BY 4.0

Broca's Area: Speech Production


Location:
Frontal lobe. Interestingly, Broca’s area is located just on a single brain hemisphere. 

Main Function: Language production; verbally or written.

Result of Damage: People who suffer damage to Broca’s area have difficult time producing language in a clear syntax.

Take a look at the video below to see how someone speaks when they have Broca’s aphasia.  What do you notice about Mike’s ability to communicate he speaks? 

      • →  Does he appear to understand what is being spoken to him? 
      • →  Do the words he responds with make sense in the context of the conversation?
      • →  Does he have trouble saying individual words?
      • →  Does he have trouble saying multiple words together in a sentence?
      • →  Does he stutter or have long pauses between words?
      • → Do you think it would be possible to have a meaningful conversation with Mike?


Brain with Broca's area colored in red

Author: Polygon | License: BY-SA 2.1 JP

Aphasia is a speech impairment. Broca’s aphasia categorizes individuals who are unabile to produce speech whereas Wernicke’s aphasia categorizes an inability to understand speech/language.

Wernicke's Area: Speech Interpretation


Location:
Temporal lobe; at the end of the lateral fissure, where the temporal lobe meets the parietal lobe.

Main Function:  Speech comprehension.

Result of Damage: People who suffer damage to Wernicke’s area are not able to understand speech. They can often produce speak fluently, but their words may not make sense.
Take a look at the video below to see how someone speaks when they have Wernicke’s aphasia. 

What do you notice about Bryon’s ability to communicate? While you listen, reflect on some of the same questions as we did for Broca’s aphasia.

      • →  Does he appear to understand what is being spoken to him? 
      • →  Do the words he responds with make sense in the context of the conversation?
      • →  Does he have trouble saying individual words?
      • →  Does he have trouble saying multiple words together in a sentence?
      • →  Does he stutter or have long pauses between words?
      • → Do you think it would be possible to have a meaningful conversation with Bryon?


Brain with Wernicke's area colored in red

Author: Polygon | License: BY-SA 2.1 JP

Link to Learning

Wernicke’s aphasia is also sometimes called fluent aphasia. Fluent aphasia is characterized by one’s ability to speak ‘fluently’ or that sound like normal speech. Sometimes, individuals with fluent aphasia will say words that sound like they are made up, these are called neologisms.

  1. Spielman RM, Dumper K, Jenkins W, Lacombe A, Lovett M, Perlmutter. “”3.4 The Brain and Spinal Cord.” Psychology. OpenStax CNX. 2014. Houston, TX. https://openstax.org/books/psychology/pages/3-4-the-brain-and-spinal-cordLicense: CC BY 4.0 License Terms: Edited & Adapted | Access for free at https://openstax.org/books/psychology/pages/1-introduction.
  2. Polygon – Database Center for Life Science. “Broca’s Area – Lateral View.png.” Wiki Commons, 2 May 2014, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32508617. License: CC BY-SA 2.1 JP License Terms: No edits were made.
  3. Tactus Therapy. “Broca’s Aphasia (Non-Fluent Aphasia).” YouTube. June 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWC-cVQmEmY.
  4. Polygon – Database Center for Life Science. “Wernicke’s Area – Lateral View.png.” Wiki Commons, 3 May 2014, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wernicke%27s_area_-_lateral_view.png License: CC BY-SA 2.1 JP License Terms: No edits were made.
  5. Tactus Therapy. “Fluent Aphasia (Wernicke’s Aphasia).” YouTube. Sept 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oef68YabD0.