Sign Language in the Brain; The Hidden Mind; Special Editions; by Gregory Hickok, Ursula Bellugi and Edward S. Klima; 8 Page(s)
One of the great mysteries of the human brain is how it understands and produces language. Until recently, most of the research on this subject had been based on the study of spoken languages: English, French, German and the like. Starting in the mid-19th century, scientists made large strides in identifying the regions of the brain involved in speech. For example, in 1861 French neurologist Paul Broca discovered that patients who could understand spoken language but had difficulty speaking tended to have damage to a part of the brain's left hemisphere that became known as Broca's area. And in 1874 German physician Carl Wernicke found that patients with fluent speech but severe comprehension problems typically had damage to another part of the left hemisphere, which was dubbed Wernicke's area.
Similar damage to the brain's right hemisphere only very rarely results in such language disruptions, which are called aphasias. Instead right hemisphere damage is more often associated with severe visual-spatial problems, such as the inability to copy a simple line drawing. For these reasons, the left hemisphere is often branded the verbal hemisphere and the right hemisphere the spatial hemisphere. Although this dichotomy is an oversimplification, it does capture some of the main clinical differences between individuals with damage to the left side of the brain and those with damage to the right.