Wernicke's Area in the Brain

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

Wernicke's area is one of the main areas of the cerebral cortex responsible for language comprehension. This region of the brain is where spoken language is understood. Neurologist Carl Wernicke is credited with discovering the function of this brain region. He did so while observing individuals with damage to the posterior temporal lobe of the brain.

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

Located in the lower portion of the left frontal lobe, Broca's area controls motor functions involved with speech production. Together, these two brain areas enable us to speak as well as interpret, process, and understand spoken and written language.

Function

Functions of Wernicke's Area include:

  • Language Comprehension
  • Semantic Processing
  • Language Recognition
  • Language Interpretation

Location

Wernicke's area is located in the left temporal lobe, posterior to the primary auditory complex.

Language Processing

Speech and language processing are complex functions that involve several parts of the cerebral cortex. Wernicke's area, Broca's area, and the angular gyrus are three regions vital to language processing and speech. Wernicke's area is connected to Broca's area by a group of nerve fiber bundles called the arcuate fascilicus. While Wernicke's area helps us to understand language, Broca's area helps us to accurately communicate our ideas to others through speech.

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

Wernicke's Aphasia

Individuals with damage to the posterior temporal lobe region, where Wernicke's area is located, may develop a condition called Wernicke's aphasia or fluent aphasia.

These individuals have difficulty comprehending language and communicating ideas. While they are able to speak words and form sentences that are grammatically correct, the sentences do not make sense. They may include unrelated words or words that have no meaning in their sentences. These individuals lose the ability to connect words with their appropriate meanings. They are often unaware that what they are saying does not make sense.

Sources:

  • National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Aphasia. NIH Pub. No. 97-4257. Updated June 1, 2016. Retrieved from https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/aphasia.
  • National Aphasia Foundation. (n.d.). Wernicke's aphasia. Retrieved from http://www.aphasia.org/aphasia-resources/wernickes-aphasia/