Carl Wernicke (born 15 May 1848 in Tarnowitz, Upper Silesia, then Prussia, now Tarnowskie Gory, Poland – died 15 June 1905 in Gräfenroda, Germany) was a German physician, anatomist, psychiatrist and neuropathologist. He earned his medical degree at the University of Breslau (1870). He died in Germany due to injuries suffered during a bicycle accident .
Shortly after Paul Broca published his findings on language deficits caused by damage to what is now referred to as Broca's area, Wernicke began pursuing his own research into the effects of brain disease on speech and language. Wernicke noticed that not all language deficits were the result of damage to Broca's area. Rather he found that damage to the left posterior, superior temporal gyrus resulted in deficits in language comprehension. This region is now referred to as Wernicke's area, and the associated syndrome is known as Wernicke's aphasia, for his discovery.
The Wernicke-Geschwind model of language
Wernicke created an early neurological model of language, that later was revived by Norman Geschwind. The model is known as the Wernicke-Geschwind model.
Neurological syndromes described by Wernicke
- Wernicke aphasia: the eponymous term for receptive or sensory aphasia. It is the inability to understand speech, or to produce meaningful speech, caused by lesions to the posterior cortex.
- Wernicke encephalopathy: an acute neurological syndrome of ophthalmoparesis, ataxia, and encephalopathy brought on by thiamine deficiency. Wernicke's encephalopathy can occur combined with Korsakoff psychosis, which is a subacute dementia syndrome. It is then called the Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.