What have we learned from Louis Victor Leborgne (Patient Tan)?

Answer: Louis Victor Leborgne was one of the early case studies of Broca’s aphasia. He had severely impaired speech (expressive aphasia).

victor leborgne patient tan brain

In the mid 1800’s, a 30-year-old French citizen named Louis Victor Leborgne was admitted to a hospital after he lost the ability to speak. He only spoke using one syllable. He would communicate entirely with the word “tan,” using it with different voice inflections and with hand gestures when appropriate. Because of his way of talking, he became known as “Patient Tan.”

He became a patient of Pierre Paul Broca, a physician who specialized in language. The disorder observed in Leborgne, a difficulty in producing speech, came to be known as Broca’s aphasia, or expressive aphasia.

Leborgne died at 51 years old. An autopsy confirmed that Leborgne had significant damage to his posterior inferior frontal gyrus, in the region of the brain that corresponds to Brodmann areas 44 and 45. Today these areas of the brain are called Broca’s areas. It is likely that the damage to his brain was a result of syphilis.