Having a conversation takes a lot of teamwork inside the brain, and most of it tends to take place on the left side. But there’s not a single language area - different parts take care of different jobs. This image highlights in red a bundle of neurons, called the arcuate fasciculus, that links the brain area that understands other's words (Wernicke’s area, lower right) with the part that creates your responses (Broca’s area, top left).
Neuroscientists know about this connection because, when it’s damaged, people can understand - but can’t accurately repeat - words. If prompted to say “Wednesday,” for instance, a patient might reply “Wesednay.” The speaker would be immediately aware of his mistake, but the damaged connection makes it difficult to correct the error.
Charlie Wood is a science writer with a bachelor’s degree in physics from Brown University and a master’s degree is science journalism from New York University. In previous lives he taught physics in Mozambique and English in Japan, but these days he freelances from his home in New York.
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