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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

brain

(Image credit: Bruno Delamain)

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

Language center

broca-brain

(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 Ghose

Tia is the managing editor and was previously a senior writer for Live Science. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Wired.com and other outlets. She holds a master's degree in bioengineering from the University of Washington, a graduate certificate in science writing from UC Santa Cruz and a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. Tia was part of a team at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that published the Empty Cradles series on preterm births, which won multiple awards, including the 2012 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.