Named for Paul Broca who first described it in 1861, Broca's area is the section of the brain which is involved in speech production, specifically assessing syntax of words while listening, and comprehending structural complexity. People suffering from neurophysiological damage to this area (called Broca's aphasia or nonfluent aphasia) are unable to understand and make grammatically complex sentences. Speech will consist almost entirely of content words.
Broca's area is a homologue to area F5 of the macaque monkey, which is an area in which mirror neurons were first discovered (Iacoboni, 2008). Indeed, activity in Broca's area is often observed in humans (using modern imaging techniques) during experiments on imitating or observing. This has led to the intriguing possibility that the mirror system, and the execution and imitation of gestures, was fundamental to the evolution of human language.
- Iacoboni, M. (2008). Mirroring People: The New Science of How We Connect With Others. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
(Revised January 2010)