IX. THE NEW SCIENCE OF EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY

The case was that of a patient at the Bicetre, who for twenty years had been deprived of the power of speech, seemingly through loss of memory of words. In 1861 this patient died, and an autopsy revealed that a certain convolution of the left frontal lobe of his cerebrum had been totally destroyed by disease, the remainder of his brain being intact. Broca felt that this observation pointed strongly to a localization of the memory of words in a definite area of the brain. Moreover, it transpired that the case was not without precedent. As long ago as 1825 Dr. Boillard had been led, through pathological studies, to locate definitely a centre for the articulation of words in the frontal lobe, and here and there other observers had made tentatives in the same direction. Boillard had even followed the matter up with pertinacity, but the world was not ready to listen to him. Now, however, in the half-decade that followed Broca's announcements, interest rose to fever-beat, and through the efforts of Broca, Boillard, and numerous others it was proved that a veritable centre having a strange domination over the memory of articulate words has its seat in the third convolution of the frontal lobe of the cerebrum, usually in the left hemisphere. That part of the brain has since been known to the English-speaking world as the convolution of Broca, a name which, strangely enough, the discoverer's compatriots have been slow to accept.

This discovery very naturally reopened the entire subject of brain localization. It was but a short step to the inference that there must be other definite centres worth the seeking, and various observers set about searching for them. In 1867 a clew was gained by Eckhard, who, repeating a forgotten experiment by Haller and Zinn of the previous century, removed portions of the brain cortex of animals, with the result of producing convulsions. But the really vital departure was made in 1870 by the German investigators Fritsch and Hitzig, who, by stimulating definite areas of the cortex of animals with a galvanic current, produced contraction of definite sets of muscles of the opposite side of the body. These most important experiments, received at first with incredulity, were repeated and extended in 1873 by Dr. David Ferrier, of London, and soon afterwards by a small army of independent workers everywhere, prominent among whom were Franck and Pitres in France, Munck and Goltz in Germany, and Horsley and Schafer in England. The detailed results, naturally enough, were not at first all in harmony. Some observers, as Goltz, even denied the validity of the conclusions in toto. But a consensus of opinion, based on multitudes of experiments, soon placed the broad general facts for which Fritsch and Hitzig contended beyond controversy. It was found, indeed, that the cerebral centres of motor activities have not quite the finality at first ascribed to them by some observers, since it may often happen that after the destruction of a centre, with attending loss of function, there may be a gradual restoration of the lost function, proving that other centres have acquired the capacity to take the place of the one destroyed. There are limits to this capacity for substitution, however, and with this qualification the definiteness of the localization of motor functions in the cerebral cortex has become an accepted part of brain physiology.

Nor is such localization confined to motor centres. Later experiments, particularly of Ferrier and of Munck, proved that the centres of vision are equally restricted in their location, this time in the posterior lobes of the brain, and that hearing has likewise its local habitation. Indeed, there is every reason to believe that each form of primary sensation is based on impressions which mainly come to a definitely localized goal in the brain. But all this, be it understood, has no reference to the higher forms of intellection. All experiment has proved futile to localize these functions, except indeed to the extent of corroborating the familiar fact of their dependence upon the brain, and, somewhat problematically, upon the anterior lobes of the cerebrum in particular. But this is precisely what should be expected, for the clearer insight into the nature of mental processes makes it plain that in the main these alleged "faculties" are not in themselves localized. Thus, for example, the "faculty" of language is associated irrevocably with centres of vision, of hearing, and of muscular activity, to go no further, and only becomes possible through the association of these widely separated centres. The destruction of Broca's centre, as was early discovered, does not altogether deprive a patient of his knowledge of language. He may be totally unable to speak (though as to this there are all degrees of variation), and yet may comprehend what is said to him, and be able to read, think, and even write correctly. Thus it appears that Broca's centre is peculiarly bound up with the capacity for articulate speech, but is far enough from being the seat of the faculty of language in its entirety.