Discover the Mysteries of Broca's Area and Speech

The Parts of the Brain That Work Together for Language Processing

Broca's Area, Wernicke's Area
This digital illustration of a head in profile shows the bundle of nerve fibers (green) that connect Broca's area (purple) and Wernicke's area (orange) in human brain. These brain areas are important for speech and language comprehension. Credit: Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Broca's area, one of the main areas of the cerebral cortex, is responsible for producing language. This region of the brain was named for French neurosurgeon Paul Broca, who discovered the function of this area during the 1850s while examining the brains of patients with language difficulties.

Language Motor Functions

Broca's area is found in the forebrain division of the brain. In directional terms, Broca's area is located in the lower portion of the left frontal lobe, and it controls motor functions involved with speech production and language comprehension.

In earlier years, people with damage to Broca's area of the brain were believed to be able to understand language but only have problems with forming words or speaking fluently. Later studies have shown that damage to Broca's area can also affect language comprehension.

The anterior, or frontal, part of Broca's area is responsible for understanding the meaning of words; in linguistics, this is known as semantics. The posterior, or back, part of Broca's area is responsible for helping people understand how words sound, something known as phonology in linguistic terms.

Primary Functions of Broca's Area
Speech production
Facial neuron control
Language processing

Broca's area is connected to another brain region known as Wernicke's area, located in the temporal lobe, via a group of nerve bundles called the arcuate fasciculus. Wernicke's area processes both written and spoken language.

Brain's System of Language Processing

Speech and language processing are complex functions of the brain.

Broca's area, Wernicke's area, and the angular gyrus of the brain are all connected and work together in speech and language comprehension.

Another brain area associated with language is called the angular gyrus. This area receives touch sensory information from the parietal lobe, visual information from the occipital lobe, and auditory information from the temporal lobe.

The angular gyrus helps us utilize different types of sensory information to comprehend language.

Broca's Aphasia

Damage to Broca's area of the brain results in a condition called Broca's aphasia. If you have Broca's aphasia, you will likely have difficulty with speech production. For example, if you have Broca's aphasia, you may know what you want to say but have difficulty verbalizing it. If you have a stutter, this language-processing disorder is usually associated with a lack of activity in Broca's area.

Additionally, if you have Broca's aphasia, your speech may be slow, not grammatically correct, and it will likely consist primarily of simple words. For example, a person with Broca's aphasia might try to say something like, "Mom went to go get milk at the store," or "Mom, we need milk. Go to the store," but she would likely only be able to say, "Mom, milk, store."

Conduction aphasia is a subset of Broca's aphasia where there is damage to the nerve fibers that connect Broca's area to Wernicke's area. If you have conduction aphasia, you may have difficulty repeating words or phrases properly but you are able to comprehend language and speak coherently.

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