Monday, January 30, 2012

New Origin of Language

Original location of Wernicke's area. Image from Wikipedia

Having the ability to speak is one concept that many people do not think about on a daily basis, but for Scientists the origin of speech holds more importance than it seems.  The original understanding of how and where human speech is processed is known as the Wernicke's area, which is located towards the back of the brain, behind the auditory portion, where sounds are received.  A German neurologist, Carl Wernicke, was the first to discover this area through analysis of brain injuries and strokes.  Since there was evidence of where human speech originated no one went against the idea and many people today believe that this concept holds truth.  Guess what?! Someone should have went against the idea because research proves that the location of Wernkicke's area is actually somewhere else in the brain!

Now that I have just dropped a bomb on you about the new location of the origin of human speech, your probably wondering where exactly the new location is.  New research has been completed through imaging studies of the brain and has proved that Wernicke's area is actually 3 centimeters closer to the front of the brain on the other side of the auditory portion.  Many Scientists today are conducting research on this new finding, but one in particular is Josef Rauchecker, who is the author of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).  He searched for studies that dealt with the idea of auditory speech perception in humans and analyzed the data presented.  The results further proved the new location of the Wernicke's area being in the left temporal lobe, specifically the superior temporal gyrus, in front of the auditory portion.  Rauschecker also says that the origins of language between monkeys and humans is more closely related than people think based on the new location of Wernicke's area in humans compared to that same area in non-human primates.  This new idea makes me think about Caesar, the head ape from Planet of the Apes (2011 version), who spoke in human speech at the end of the movie and said proudly "Caesar is home"!!
New location of Wernicke's area. Image from Wikipedia

Based on the new research regarding where the Wernicke's area is located texts books today may have to be rewritten and when people Google "language origin of the brain" the images will be wrong!  This is proof of how science is always changing and old ideas that have been believed to be true for ages can turn out to be something that no one expected.  

For more information on this new concept of human speech visit the Neuroscience website.
"Caesar is home" Image from Wikipedia
The ideas I incorporated into this blog post were those that I felt are most important.  I tried to picture my audience as students, specifically High School/College aged.  With that in mind I tried to add some humor to the post as well as use words that are easily understood.  I also allowed my roommates to read the blog and give feedback on my ideas.  I used my own style of presenting the information and focused on one key concept.  I also tried to be concise and entertaining, but also have fun with the blog!

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