Skip to main content

Image Gallery: Broca's Brain

The speechless patient called 'Tan' who allowed Paul Broca to tie a specific brain region to language has been identified as Louis Leborgne (Image credit: Bruno Delamain)

Mysterious dying patient

bicetre hospital

(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons | By Eugène Atget)

In the 19th century, a speechless patient wasted away in the Bicetre Hospital in France for 21 years. He was known as 'Tan' for the only word he could say, and for 150 years, his identity has remained a mystery.

Historic meeting

broca, paul broca

(Image credit: Wellcome Library)

In 1861, as Tan lay dying, the famous physician Paul Broca encountered the patient.

Broca's brain


(Image credit: Bruno Delamain)

When the ill-fated patient died, Broca autopsied his brain

Language center


(Image credit: Bruno Delamain)

Broca noticed a lesion in a part of the brain tucked up behind the eyes. He concluded that the brain region was responsible for language processing. But despite Tan becoming one of the most famous medical patients in history, he was never identified until now.

Historic brain injury

brain region

(Image credit: Nina Dronkers)

A 2007 study in the journal Brain revealed the extent of the lesion using MRI imaging. A recent study identified the patient as a Monsieur Louis Leborgne, a craftsman who had suffered from epilepsy his whole life.

Tia Ghose
Tia has interned at Science News,, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and has written for the Center for Investigative Reporting, Scientific American, and ScienceNow. She has a master's degree in bioengineering from the University of Washington and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California Santa Cruz.