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Brain Lang. 1993 Nov;45(4):560-71.

Theodor Meynert's contribution to classical 19th century aphasia studies.

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Département de Psychologie, Université du Québec à Montréal, Québec, Canada.


Carl Wernicke (1848-1905) is traditionally considered the first to have described the features of, and the brain pathology underlying, impaired auditory comprehension and related symptoms. Although Wernicke (1874) clearly and repeatedly indicates his indebtedness to Theodor von Meynert (1833-1892), this is usually understood as an acknowledgment that Meynert taught Wernicke neuroanatomy (Eggert, 1977); Wernicke's own words in part support this interpretation. A more sophisticated historical analysis notes that, prior to Wernicke, both Johann Schmidt in 1871 and Charlton Bastian in 1869 had described the concept of receptive aphasia, but neither had supported their analyses with autopsy evidence as did Wernicke, thus not dislodging Wernicke's claim of priority. However, a virtually unknown work by Theodor von Meynert, published in 1866, has recently been rediscovered by us ["Ein Fall von Sprachstörung, anatomisch begründet." Medizinische Jahrbücher. XII Band der Zeitschrift der K. K. Gesellleschaft der Arzte in Wien, 22. Jahr. Pp. 152-189]. In this paper Meynert analyzes the anatomical basis for localizing the comprehension of language in the superior temporal gyrus, he argues that lesions in this area should (by analogy to Broca's earlier observations on language expression) cause impairments in language comprehension, and he presents a case of receptive aphasia with autopsy evidence of destruction of the superior temporal gyrus in the left hemisphere. The patient's aphasia was classic; impaired auditory comprehension, and fluent speech with paraphasias. It is clear that Meynert should be given historical credit for his work.

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