The evolution of cerebral language localization: Historical analysis and current trends


Department of Neurosurgery, Aurora Neuroscience Innovation Institute, Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center, Skull Base, Brain & Cerebrovascular Laboratory, Aurora Research Health Institute


Language localization has been an evolving concept over the past 150 years, with the emergence of several important yet conflicting ideologies. The classical theory, starting from the phrenologic work of Gall to the identification of specific regions of language function by Broca, Wernicke, and others, proposed that discrete subcomponents of language were organized into separate anatomic structural regions. The holism theory was postulated in an attempt to disclose that language function was instead attributed to a larger region of the cortex, in which cerebral regions may have the capability of assuming the function of damaged areas. However, this theory was largely abandoned in favor of discrete structural localizationist viewpoints. The subsequent cortical stimulatory work of Penfield led to the development of maps of localization, assigning an eloquent designation to specific regions. The expanding knowledge of cortical and subcortical anatomy allowed for the development of anatomically and functionally integrative language models. In particular, the dual stream model revisited the concept of regional interconnectivity and expanded the concept of eloquence. Advancements in cortical-subcortical stimulation, neurophysiologic monitoring, magnetic resonance diffusion tensor imaging/functional magnetic resonance imaging, awake neurosurgical technique, and knowledge gained by white matter tract anatomy and the Human Connectome Project, shed new light on the dynamic interconnectivity of the cerebrum. New studies are progressively opening doors to this paradigm, showing the dynamic and interdependent nature of language function. In this review, the evolution of language toward the evolving paradigm of dynamic language function and interconnectivity and its impact on shaping the neurosurgical paradigm are outlined.

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