the consequences of a stroke


The study of the relationship between brain structure and language is a cornerstone of neurology.

Witnessing the loss of such a specific and culturally organized ability to communicate as a result of the lesion of a small layer of cells in the cerebral cortex has historically spurred the search for the importance of the nervous system in terms of the correlation between location and function.

Thus, with the groundbreaking research of Broca and Wernicke at the turn of the century, a long path of knowledge began that has led to today’s interpretation models that attempt to describe the complexity of brain activity.

Interestingly, this path was marked from the beginning by two divergent trends: on the one hand, the finding of an apparent linearity between neural tissue localization and functional competence, hence the reproducible and inevitable correlation between topographical focus of the lesion and type of functional impairment (‘classic’ functional anatomy), on the other hand, the likewise selective inclusion of apparently distant functions in terms of execution modality and perception in a multivariate architectural scheme (e.g. the multiple nodes of sensorimotor integration on overlapping and parallel planes). of information processing that arise in separate functional abilities, such as eye movements or tactile perception).

The apparent contradiction between these two tendencies has historically given rise to theoretical currents bordering on factionalism, such as Lombroso-style localizationism (the famous “genius belly”) on the one hand, and radical holism on the other, which eventually has denied any validity and usefulness for the study of functional anatomy.

The currently shared model is that of a reticular system in which connections are organized according to overlapping priorities that describe a species-dependent phyllo-ontogenetic schema that is constantly being revised by cultural cues. In other words, the organizational complexity model encompasses and harmonizes the apparent contradictions between linear connections and ubiquitous brain functions.

Foreign accent syndrome, what happens to the language

All of these preambles can perhaps provide a key to interpreting the strange “foreign accent syndrome”: The brain areas responsible for verbal language expression see several functional instances converge, some of which carry the information about “the thought” they want to be converted into a movement program of the speech organs, others carry the physical state (state of muscle contraction, tendon tension, joint geometry, etc.) in which the latter are (proprioception), others collect the “feedback” of one’s speech emission, which is constantly checked during verbal emission.

As one can guess, this behavioral production, like others characterized by voluntary control of motor function, is the result of several recurring “circuits” converging in a structure that can be functionally interpreted as the “final path” i.e. language.

However, since this structure is composed of the projection of other structures at the same time, one can always assume that the lesion is so small that it isolates one aspect of its production.

Thus, in the absence of the informational component involving recognition of one’s own voice and speech articulation, the vocal emission may appear “disturbed” from what the subject normally verbally produces without the normal “self-correction” of his or her phonetic emission.

Why do we speak of epigenetics when referring to foreign accent syndrome?

The dissociation between the components of the final product, ie the language, can give rise to these ‘bizarre’ phenomena.

But what are the individual instances that are disturbed in this dissociation?

What is the accent of a language or dialect? In our opinion, language acquisition is a predominantly extrauterine process.

The child possesses an innate terrain prepared for the formation of language competence (there is such an extensive and detailed scientific literature on the subject that it is impossible even to mention it here), on which a range of competences is built that are closely related to the environment stimuli that are linked to its cultural environment.

This sentence is thus the result of a genetic palimpsest (genotype) in which neural pathways with specific structural relationships between phoneme (wording) and thought are delineated and reinforced.

This latter process is the result of a structural rearrangement that blends into the genotype, which we call the phenotype.

We are led to believe, at least according to prevailing scientific thinking (ie not yet troubled by the new frontiers of cutting-edge research), that the distinction between genetic terrain and cultural influence is insurmountable.

However, this “dogma” prevents us from understanding a phenomenon like “foreign accent syndrome”.

In which area of ​​the cerebral cortex would English accent competence be genetically stored?

And from the Russian?

And if a stroke patient from Sochi, Russia, began speaking with an accent from the St. Petersburg province, should we assume that somewhere in his cerebral cortex vowel variations and prosodic musicalities were already present?

Obviously we are missing something….

One “invention” for such a paradox was proposed by the Swiss anthropologist and psychiatrist CG Jung in the early 20th century (complex mental entity) springs from a reservoir of “information” deposited in humanity, passed on in unconscious form through a source of “universal cultural heritage”.

What we rationally discern through conscious channels of communication would be nothing more than a bark actually hiding a kind of global knowledge common to all human beings at all times.

It is worth mentioning, apart from the enormous philosophical leap that makes a careful exploration of the relationships between nerve structure and function useless at this point (it is no accident that Jung, unbeknownst to him and I believe to his otherworldly regret, is often consulted to support all the various wacky New Age holistic theories that claim the right to treat patients under the guise of “complexity” without first studying anatomy and physiology), which the Swiss scholar is quite similar to observing clinical cases even makes “Language Dreams” quoting passages from old poems and various other examples of inexplicable “cultural leaps” for delirious schizophrenic patients who use foreign words they never learned.

On the other hand, these kinds of “miracles” are a staple of human culture’s supernatural imagery, from shamans adopting the language of animals to (to put it respectfully) the miracle of Pentecost in which Jesus’ disciples suddenly became masters of all languages World.

Here, where modern scientific inquiry seems to succumb to the allure of metaphysics (in the Aristotelian sense proper), a breach has nevertheless opened up: for some time, on the back of important research in various biological and physiological fields, an awareness has emerged that the gap between genetic material and environmental influences is not so insurmountable.

In other words, there is evidence that acquired traits (which can be individual variations of a protein, but also complex behavioral patterns) are passed on to the genome, which is then able to pass the new phenotype as a genetically determined trait into subsequent generations project .

This new perspective, which hundreds of scientists around the world are now working on, is called epigenetics.

Transferred to the study of neurophysiology, epigenetics can definitely open up the game anew.

We still don’t know how it is possible for a sick Neapolitan to speak with a Venetian accent.

We probably first need to understand which morphostructural features of the brain express this variability; However, epigenetics may keep us from thinking that the sight of sick “foreign accent syndrome” should prompt us to call in an exorcist instead of a doctor.

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