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Language & the Brain

Although most adults don't think about it too much, the use of language is one of the most complex things that most of us do on a given day. Most of us are able to understand what other people are saying almost effortlessly, and we can usually generate the proper words for a response with very little effort as well. When you think about the huge number of words and ideas that we must wade through to come up with the right words, that skill is really amazing.

This image of the brain shows where most of these language tasks are governed. As you can see, Broca's area, which generally governs speech production, is located in the frontal lobe, which we normally associate with planned, intentional activity and motor movements. This location makes sense because to produce speech, you must plan your words and move your jaw and make the sounds necessary to be understood.

Wernicke's area, which governs speech comprehension, is located in the temporal lobe, which we generally associate with hearing. Again, this location is reasonable because we must hear speech in order to comprehend it. Damage to either of these areas, while not necessarily rendering us unable to communicate, can certainly handicap our ability to do so.

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Copyright 2003-2005
Bart Everson & Elliott Hammer, PhD