Wernicke's area and its relation to language

Wernicke's area and its relation to language

The Wernicke area It is one of the main areas of the cerebral cortex responsible for the language comprehension. This region of the brain is where spoken language is understood.

The neurologist Carl Wernicke was the discoverer of the function of this region of the brain. He did this while observing individuals with damage to the posterior temporal lobe of the brain.

Wernicke's area in turn is connected to another region of the brain also involved in the language processing known as Broca's area.


  • 1 How Wernicke's area was discovered
  • 2 Anatomical location of the Wernicke area
  • 3 Language Processing
  • 4 Wernicke area function
  • 5 Wernicke's aphasia

How the Wernicke area was discovered

Early neuroscientists were interested in discovering where certain skills were located in the brain. One of the pioneers of this research was a French neurologist named Paul Broca. During the 1970s, Broca discovered a region of the brain associated with the production of spoken language. He realized that the damage to this area generated serious problems in language production.

Broca described that a patient of his, known as Leborgne, could understand the language, but he could not speak correctly, just say isolated words and some that others enunciated.

When Leborgne died, Broca examined his brain and found an injury in an area of ​​the frontal lobe. This area of ​​the brain is now known as the drill bit area and is associated with speech production.

About ten years later, a neurologist named Carl Wernicke He identified a similar type of problem, in which the affected patients could speak but could not understand the language.

When examining the brains of these patients, he observed lesions in a parietal, temporal and occipital junction of the lobes. This region of the brain is now known as the Wernicke area and is associated with the understanding of spoken and written language.

Anatomic location of the Wernicke area

The Wernicke area is usually located in the back of the temporal lobe, although the exact location may vary. It is most often found in the left hemisphere of the brain, but not always.

In the lower part of the left frontal lobe is the Broca area, which controls the motor functions related to speech production. Together, these two areas of the brain allow us speak and interpret, process and understand spoken and written language.

Wernicke's area is the region of the brain that contains the motor neurons involved in speech comprehension. As it is usually found in the posterior third of the superior temporal convolution of the left hemisphere of the brain, it is close to the auditory cortex. It is therefore especially important for the understanding of speech sounds and is considered receptive language, or the center of language comprehension.

Language processing

Speech and language processing are complex functions for which several parts of the cerebral cortex work in common. Wernicke's area, Broca's area and angular gyrus are the three vital regions for speech and language processing. Wernicke's area is connected to Broca's area by a group of nerve fiber bundles called arched fascicle or fascicus arch. While Wernicke's area helps us understand language, Broca's area helps us communicate our ideas accurately to others through speech.

The angular gyrus, located in the parietal lobe, is a region of the brain that helps us use different types of sensory information to understand language.

Wernicke area function

Wernicke's area basically allows us to understand spoken language. It helps to understand speech and provides us with the right words to express our thoughts. The main functions of the Wernicke area are:

  • Language comprehension
  • Semantic Processing
  • Language recognition
  • Language interpretation

When there is a problem in this area, the person can produce speech, but cannot understand the speech of others. This is called Wernicke's aphasia.

Wernicke's aphasia

Wernicke's aphasia is a language disorder that affects language comprehension and the production of meaningful language. People with Wernicke's aphasia have difficulty understanding spoken language, although they can produce sounds, phrases and word sequences. While these broadcasts have the same rhythm as normal speech, they are not a language because information is not transmitted.

People who suffer from this type of aphasia they can produce speech that sounds natural, but that largely makes no sense. This type of aphasia is also known as receptive aphasia, fluid aphasia or sensory aphasia. This type of aphasia affects spoken and written language.

Thus, people with Wernicke's aphasia can often produce speech that sounds normal and grammatically correct, but the actual content of their speech makes little sense. Non-existent and irrelevant words often appear in the sentences they produce, because in reality it is empty of content. It is characterized by circumlocutions, with a high incidence of vague words, neologisms and in general a "salad of words" meaningless.