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Front. Neuroanat. | doi: 10.3389/fnana.2019.00052

The Long View of Language Localization

  • 1Department of Applied Linguistics and Communication, School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy, Birkbeck University of London, United Kingdom

For British neurologists, one case was considered to represent significant evidence regarding the organization of language in the brain in the second half of the 19th century. The interpretation of its significance was based on repeated standard clinical assessment of behavioral deficits, the use of a psychological model of processing, and lesion localization to inform understanding of clinic-pathological correlation. The aphasic deficits experienced by a single case were observed and recorded by London neurologist Henry Charlton Bastian (1837-1915) over a period of 18 years, and used as a demonstration of clinico-pathological reasoning regarding language function. This case was well documented in many of Bastian’s publications; presented in teaching demonstrations; included in discussions at medical society meetings and public lectures; and reported widely in the medical press. When this patient died, the autopsy findings were added to the extensive record of his language deficits. Some aspects of the size and site of the lesion were consistent with Bastian’s clinical predictions arising from his model of language processing, while others presented more of a paradox. This single case was a significant source of discussion and reflection in the medical community throughout the second half of the 19th century. Examination of various interpretations of this case reveal the assumptions regarding the functional architecture of language processing, and more general theoretical considerations of how evidence from cases of acquired neurogenic aphasia can be employed in developing such models. This long view into a historical case sheds light on the challenges of clinic-pathological correlation methods difficulties in understanding in the understanding of localization of language functions regarding language processing which remain today.

Keywords: Aphasia, Lesion localization, Clinico-pathologic correlation, 19th - 20th century, Behavioral Neurology, Henry Charlton Bastian, Language processes

Received: 26 Feb 2019; Accepted: 10 May 2019.

Edited by:

James C. Vickers, University of Tasmania, Australia

Reviewed by:

Antonio Di Ieva, Macquarie University, Australia
David Reser, Monash University, Australia  

Copyright: © 2019 Lorch. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Marjorie P. Lorch, Department of Applied Linguistics and Communication, School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy, Birkbeck University of London, London, United Kingdom, m.lorch@bbk.ac.uk