On Aphasia, 1891, by Sigmund Freud
On Aphasia is the first published work by Freud. In this little known monograph Freud challenges the leading belief back then that aphasia could be localized in certain areas of the mind. He proposed that theories in his time linking aphasia to neuroscience were utterly irrelevant. It helped to lay important groundwork for later theories, which he would later develop. The ideas, which he came upon during his studies on aphasia, lay the fundamental basis for the development of psychoanalysis. This tiny book is an important resource in filling in the gaps for a clear understanding of his later works. The work reveals that he had developed a global network of correspondence with scientists from various disciplines on the human mind. This interlinked network helped him to come across various cases from patients throughout the world. Their peculiar conditions were fundamental in helping Freud denounce the existing theories of the time.
In the work, he suggests notions, which have yet to be investigated by cognitive science, neuroscience and other disciplines, which deal with human speech. In the work, he suggests that speech is spontaneous in nature; he postulates that it emanates from an individual's desire to engage in speech. Freud made an amazing discovery, for his time, that any speech difficulties an individual had would disappear almost instantaneously the patient began to talk about the event. In this case, the event was the incident, which led to disorder in speech.
He was especially critical of earlier theories on aphasia. These theories were deduced from the loss of function after severe head injuries. The theories wrongly concluded that each section of the brain was only capable of conducting a certain specific function. In addition, theories prior to his work concluded that each of these parts worked independently of each other. Consequently, Freud strived to develop a new structure on how language and indeed, the entire body mind concept worked.
Freud suggested that earlier theories suggesting that centers in the mind contained specific impressions of the workings of the body were wrong. He argues that the entire proposition was arbitrary; this is because this was not always the case. In essence, he argues that the researchers came to these conclusions wrongly and that their theories did not always hold true when tested.
He also seeks to refute the concept of representation. He criticized the idea of gaps in the mind proposed by other theories. Firstly, he discusses how the conclusion as to the existence of this mind gaps was arrived upon. Earlier theories had proposed that imagers would then be stored in these regions. Theories proposed earlier tended to suggest that if an area was found to have many overlapping lesions were inferred to be the centers of language. This was inferred to mean that these areas were very critical for the normal function of a language. Consequently, all other areas would be considered to have on critical function. Freud tears apart this proposition by suggesting that the reason other areas which remained intact because they had higher resistance. In addition, he also stated that in fact that a lesion in one part of cortical region might also cause change in another part or effectively, how the entire cortical region operates. Therefore, he concludes that just the mere fact that injury in one area does not cause aphasia cannot be used as definitive proof.
In addition, Freud presented a second argument against these original theories on language. The general idea back then was that learning a new language tended to involve these unoccupied regions becoming occupied. In order to demonstrate the flawed nature of this concept, he discusses the effects of lesions on the brain. He suggested that if this were true, a lesion in the language center would leave the other language intact. However, it had been observed numerous times that this was not true. Earlier theories had compared these gaps to people coming to occupy an unoccupied area outside a city. A lesion in the language centers tended to produce aphasia symptoms without differentiating the type of language spoken. In fact, he observes that in case of lesion, the acquired language tended to be lost more easily. However, the only time the original language was affected was if the person had used the acquired language more prominently than the original language.
From these two arguments, Freud concludes that the theory of unoccupied regions is flawed. Instead, he proposes that language learning seems to occur in one particular region of the mind. Hence, the existence of unoccupied gaps in the cortical regions can be ruled out. Thus, he proposes that there is only a single language center to be located in the left hemisphere. Thus, he concluded that unique processes, which occurred in this region, were the cause of aphasic symptoms. Furthermore, he noted that injury in this area did not tend to cause one particular type of aphasia.
Freud instead proposes an alternative to these theories. However, he partly accepts the theories proposed before on the localization of brain functions. He rejects the idea that there is a specific center for each language. Thus, he suggests that it is possible for the brain to have a region where certain, related actions are handled in the brain. Thus, he says that the brain does have general regions for generally similar functions. However, there does not exist specific areas for specific languages.
Undoubtedly, one of Freud's most complex works, this book continues to play an important role in psychoanalysis. In addition, the work includes a re classification of the types of aphasia. The work he began into the studies of language must have had a huge impact into later studies about the unconscious mind. His work also helped to demonstrate that individuals were unique, thus there was need to develop unique treatments for each individual. However, his work did help to do away with popular concepts of the day. His contribution had a great influence on changing the approach, which doctors applied when treating this fact. Despite this fact, it remains one of his most unappreciated works.