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In 1861, Paul Broca stood up before the Anthropological Society of Paris and announced that the left frontal lobe was the seat of speech. Ever since, Broca's eponymous brain region has served as a primary battleground for one of the central debates in the science of the mind and brain: Is human cognition produced by highly specialized brain regions, each conducting a specific mental process, or instead by more general-purpose brain mechanisms, each broadly engaged in a wide range of cognitive tasks? For Broca's area, the debate focuses on specialization for language versus domain-general functions such as hierarchical structure building (e.g., [1, 2]), aspects of action processing (e.g., [3]), working memory (e.g., [4]), or cognitive control (e.g., [5-7]). Here, using single-subject fMRI, we find that both ideas are right: Broca's area contains two sets of subregions lying side by side, one quite specifically engaged in language processing, surrounded by another that is broadly engaged across a wide variety of tasks and content domains.

Original publication




Journal article


Curr Biol

Publication Date





2059 - 2062


Brain Mapping, Cognition, Female, Frontal Lobe, Humans, Language, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Memory, Short-Term, Speech