Article ID: CBB729220708

The memory for words: Armand Trousseau on aphasia (2022)


Of all the nineteenth-century physicians whose names still resonate today, Armand Trousseau is perhaps the one most familiar, for his description of carpal spasm as a sign of hypocalcemia (Trousseau’s sign) and his description of the hypercoagulable state associated with cancer (Trousseau’s syndrome). In the last three years of his life, Trousseau turned his attention to aphasia, which he included in his 1864 and 1865 lectures given at Hôtel-Dieu Hospital in Paris and which he discussed in an address to the Imperial Academy of Medicine in 1865. Trousseau preceded Wernicke in describing aphasia as a symptom complex, in which he included Broca’s aphemia, receptive aphasia, the inability to read with and without the inability to write (alexia with and without agraphia), the inability to name common objects (amnesic aphasia or anomia) and to recognize numbers (acalculia), and the inability to draw. Trousseau concluded that such a varied symptomatology could not arise from a single area, and he proposed that lesions of the posterior inferior frontal convolution identified by Broca, of the insula and corpus striatum and of the temporal and parietal lobes, could give rise to aphasia. The role of the posterior temporal lobe in receptive aphasia was confirmed by Wernicke in 1874, and the role of the inferior parietal lobule in agraphia and alexia was confirmed by Dejerine in 1891. Trousseau thought that aphasia resulted from the loss of the memory for words and for the synergistic actions of the movements of articulations learned in early childhood. Trousseau added inattention, lack of comprehension, and cognitive decline to amnesia as contributing factors to the verbal and nonverbal expression of thought. Trousseau constructed a comprehensive theory of aphasia that unified its semiology, localization, and pathophysiology. This construct had the virtue of being predictive and falsifiable by the clinico-pathological method. Through insight born of observation, Trousseau identified the issues that dominated aphasiology into the twenty-first century.

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Authors & Contributors
Barbara, Jean-Gaël
Dijck, José van
Eadie, Mervyn J.
Fedi, Laurent
Gere, Cathy
Guida, Alessandro
Journal of the History of the Neurosciences
Medicina nei Secoli - Arte e Scienza
Revue d'Histoire des Sciences
Configurations: A Journal of Literature, Science, and Technology
Histoire des Sciences Médicales
Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
University of Chicago Press
University of Maryland, College Park
Broca, Paul
Trousseau, Armand
Baillarger, Jules
Bergson, Henri Louis
Charcot, Jean Martin
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
20th century, early
20th century, late
21st century
15th century
Paris (France)
United States
Glasgow (Scotland)
Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris
Salpêtrière, Paris

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