Louise Victor Lebogne, il primo caso di afasia studiato a fondo, colui che permise il rilevamento e lo studio della cosiddetta “area di Broca” o area del linguaggio parlato.

È proprio Louise Victor Leborgne, un piccolo artigiano parigino, colui che ha reso possibile una delle maggiori scoperte nell’ambito della neuroanatomia moderna. È proprio su di lui, un piccolo artigiano parigino, che lo studioso Paul Broca compì i suoi studi e identificò l’area corticale principale del linguaggio.

“TAN-TAN”: due sillabe ripetute per anni, circa  venti; due sillabe che hanno valso al sig. Leborgne il nomignolo di “paziente tan”; due sillabe, unico modo per esprimersi. Fino a poco tempo fa, si conosceva poco sull’identità di questo misterioso “paziente tan”, tanto presente negli appunti del dottor Broca; oggi, grazie al meticoloso lavoro di  Cezary Domanski dell’Università “Maria Curie-Sklodowska” a Lublino possiamo dire qualcosa in più su colui che, pur inconsapevolmente, ha dato una mano enorme nella comprensione di uno dei meccanismi alla base della nostra vita di relazione.

Louis Leborgne aveva cominciato a manifestare i primi problemi durante la sua giovinezza, periodo caratterizzato da violente crisi di epilessia, ma ciò non gli aveva impedito di svolgere una vita tutto sommato tranquilla, permettendogli di affermarsi come calzolaio a Parigi. Fino al giorno in cui non perse definitivamente la parola. Venne subito ricoverato in ospedale, a causa della sua impossibilità a comunicare: non un ricovero transitorio, ma un ricovero che è durato ben 21 anni, fino alla sua morte.

Inizialmente, si pensò che il suo disturbo fosse collegato alle crisi epilettiche, ma in seguito all’autopsia sul suo cervello effettuata dallo stesso Broca, si mise in evidenza che estese aree corticali erano state danneggiate irrimediabilmente.

Questa scoperta accese la lampadina nella mente di Broca: evidentemente, se queste aree appaiono danneggiate, il soggetto non riesce a parlare.

Dopo numerosi studi, Paul Broca riuscì quindi ad identificare questa zona della corteccia cerebrale, definita appunto area di Broca, localizzata nella parte inferiore della terza circonvoluzione frontale; questa a sua volta può essere suddivisa in due sotto-aree:

  1. pars triangularis (anteriore), associata all’interpretazione di varie modalità di stimoli e alla programmazione dei condotti verbali;
  2. pars opercularis (posteriore), associata a un unico tipo di stimolo e presiede al coordinamento degli organi coinvolti nella riproduzione della parola; essa è fisicamente prossima ad aree del cervello dedicate al controllo dei movimenti.

Un danno di questa area può infatti condurre a forme più o meno gravi di afasia. Ve ne sono di diversi tipi, da quelle fluenti, in cui il soggetto parla ma con notevoli difficoltà nell’uoso di verbi o sotantivi o gravi deficienze grammaticali, a quelle più gravi, in cui il soggetto non parla proprio, passando attraverso la cosiddetta “afasia di Wernicke”, associata all’area uditiva, in cui il soggetto ha problemi nella comprensione del linguaggio e nella sua produzione.

Il cervello di Leborgne è ora conservato nel Musée Dupuytren di Parigi. Analisi recenti hanno evidenziato danni ben più gravi di quelli rilevati da Broca.

Ma ancora una piccola curiosità a proposito del nostro “tan-tan”. L’ipotesi avanzata da Domanski riguardo questa singolare sillaba è successiva, nonché decisamente azzardata: pare sia legata all’infanzia del povero Leborgne, originario della piccola cittadina di Moret-sur-Loigne, paesiano caratteristico per i tipici mulini ad acqua, definiti appunto moulin a tàn.


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