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Areas of the brain specialized in language: its location and functions

Areas of the brain specialized in language: its location and functions

May 19, 2024

Brain processes play a very important role in the regulation of our daily activities. Specifically, there several areas of the brain that are responsible for organizing language abilities and activities that are necessary to communicate.

Three of the areas most studied in relation to language are the Broca Area, the Wernicke Area and the angular gyrus. Below we explain what each one consists of and how the brain and language are related.

  • Related article: "Parts of the human brain (and functions)"

The brain and the language

One of the topics that has attracted the most specialists and non-specialists from neurosciences and cognitive sciences, has been how the human brain regulates linguistic and communicative activity .


Obviously, as it happens in all the activities we do, so that language and communication happen the participation of the brain is necessary . But this participation does not happen without a specific order, it follows a series of patterns depending on the action.

That is to say that, at brain level, language is a process that follows a series of patterns whose regulation has been located in different areas. The neurologist Antonio Damasio (cit by Castaño, 2003) tells us that there are three main systems in charge of this. One of the systems is instrumental (in charge of execution), another is semantic (in charge of coding) and the other is an intermediate system that serves to mediate the previous two.


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Areas of the brain specialized in language

Each of the brain systems that are responsible for regulating language, act through the activity of different brain areas. Three of the most important areas are the Broca Area, the Wernicke Area and the angular Circumvolution .

1. Broca's area

The Broca area is part of the instrumental language system. The bit area is related to the capacity of order phonemes to create words and then sentences . That is why it is also linked to the use of verbs and other words necessary to interact. When this zone is damaged, there is also a syntactic difficulty (related to the order, the combination and the relationship between the words).

It is called Broca's area by the person who started his study (Paul Broca) in 1861. What he did was to analyze the brain of a person who had had very important difficulties to express himself verbally, while his understanding of language was apparently functional. He found a tumor in a part of the left cerebral hemisphere, and called the clinical picture "afemia." Thereafter, this area of ​​the left cerebral hemisphere is known as Broca's area and It is related to disorders in the expressive faculty of verbal language , for example, "Broca's aphasia".


  • Related article: "Broca's aphasia: symptoms and causes of this disorder"

2. Wernicke area

The Wernicke area is also part of the instrumental language system. It helps to evoke and vocalize concepts, and is also responsible for processing the sounds for combine them creating units capable of having meaning .

It is not directly responsible for regulating semantic activity (to give meaning to linguistic expressions), but to decode phonemes. However, when there is damage in this brain area, when producing difficulties for discrimination and the processing of sounds, the semantic field is affected.

The regions that make up this area are related to two other brain areas, responsible for regulating the motor and premotor activity. The Wernicke area and the areas of motor activity are connected through a direct corticocortical pathway, and a corticosubcortical pathway. The first way is the one that regulates associative learning in a more conscious and voluntary dimension; and the second is linked to automatic behaviors such as habits.

This area is located in the left hemisphere of the brain, around the Sylvian fissure and next to the insula cortex. It has been studied since the mid-nineteenth century (with which there are several proposals on where it is located) and was named after the neurologist Carl Wernicke.

  • Related article: "Wernicke's area: anatomy, functions and disorders"

3. Angular circumcircle

The brain is covered by numerous folds or reliefs that have very important and not yet fully known functions. These folds or reliefs are called convolutions .

One of the convolutions involved in language regulation is the angular gyrus, also known as angular gyrus or Broadmann's area 39 (AB39). In addition to language, this zone participates in the activity of episodic and semantic memory, in mathematical skills, literacy and spatial attention.

Injuries in this area have been linked to semantic aphasia. Because of its relationship to the comprehensive activity of language and communication, many scientists consider this circumvolution to be an extension or a part of Wernicke's Area.

Bibliographic references:

  • Castaño, J. (2003). Neurobiological bases of language and its alterations. Journal of Neurology, 36 (8): 781-785.
  • Rosselli, M., Ardila, A. & Bernal, B. (2015). Connectivity model of the angular gyrus in the language: meta-analysis of functional neuroimaging. Journal of Neurology, 60: 495-503.
  • Trejo-Martinez, D., Jiménez, F., Marcos-Ortega, J., et al. (2007). Anatomical and functional aspects of the Broca area in functional neurosurgery. Medical Journal of the General Hospital of Mexico, 70 (3): 141-149.

Language and the brain: Aphasia and split-brain patients | MCAT | Khan Academy (May 2024).


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