Written Language Production Disorders: Historical and Recent Perspectives

  • Marjorie Lorch
Behavior (HS Kirshner, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Behavior


Written language production is often the least examined neuropsychological function, yet it provides a sensitive and subtle sign to a variety of different behavioral disorders. The dissociation between written and spoken language and reading and writing first came to clinical prominence in the nineteenth century, with respect to ideas about localization of function. Twentieth century aphasiology research focused primarily on patients with unifocal lesions from cerebrovascular accidents, which have provided insight into the various levels of processing involved in the cognitively complex task of producing written language. Recent investigations have provided a broader perspective on writing impairments in a variety of disorders, including progressive and diffuse brain disorders, and functional brain imaging techniques have been used to study the underlying processes in healthy individuals.


Agraphia Aphasia Behavioral neurology Neuropsychology 


Compliance with Ethics Guidelines

Conflict of Interest

Marjorie Lorch declares no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by the author.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: •• Of major importance

  1. 1.
    Rapcsak SZ, Beeson PM. Agraphia. In: Nadeau SE, Rothi LJ, Crosson BA, editors. Aphasia and language – theory to practice. New York: Guilford; 2000. p. 184–220.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    •• Ullrich L, Roeltgen D. Agraphia. In: Heilman KM, Valenstein E, editors. Clinical neuropsychology. 5th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2012. p. 130–51. This is an up-to-date review of the neuropsychological literature.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Parr S. Everyday reading and writing practices of normal adults: implications for aphasia assessment. Aphasiology. 1992;6:273–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Cram D, Campbell R. A 16th-century case of acquired dysgraphia as reported in Thomas Wilson's Arte of Rhetorique (1553). Historiogr Linguist. 1992;19(1):57–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Lorch M. Re-examining Paul Broca's initial presentation of M. Leborgne: understanding the impetus for brain and language research. Cortex. 2011;47(10):1228–35. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2011.06.022.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Broca P. Perte de la parole; ramollissement chronique et destruction partielle du lobe antérieure gauche du cerveau. Bull Soc Anthropol Paris. 1861;2:235–8.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Marcé LV. Mémoire sur quelques observations de physiologie pathologique tendant a démontrer l’existence d’un principe coordinateur de l’écriture et ses rapports avec le principe coordinateur de la parole. C R Soc Biol Paris. 1856;3:93–115.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Trousseau A. De l’aphasie, maladie d’écrite recomment sous le nom impropre d’aphémie. Gaz Hop Civ Mil. 1864;1:13–4.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Jackson JH. On a case of loss of power of expression; inability to talk, to write, and to read correctly after convulsive attacks. Br Med J. 1866;2:92–4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Jackson JH. Notes on the physiology and pathology of language. Med Times Gaz. 1866;1:659.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Gairdner WR. On the function of articulate speech. Reprint from the Proceedings of the Philosophical Society of Glasgow, 1865-66. Glasgow: Bell and Bain; 1866.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Ogle W. Aphasia and agraphia. St Georges Hosp Rep. 1867;2:83–122.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Jackson JH. A study of convulsions. Transactions of the St. Andrew’s Medical Graduates’ Association, 1870. In: Taylor J, editor. Selected writings of John Hughlings Jackson. London: Staples; 1958.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Bastian HC. On the various forms of loss of speech in cerebral disease. Br Foreign Med Chir Rev. 1869;43(209–36):470–92.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Lorch MP. Examining language functions: a reassessement of Henry Charlton Bastian's contribution to aphasia assessment. Brain. 2013. doi: 10.1093/brain/awt135.
  16. 16.
    Barrière I, Lorch MP. Considerations on agraphia in light of a new observation of pure motor agraphia. Translation by I. Barrière and M. Lorch from French of A. Pitres (1884) Considérations sur l’agraphie. Revue de Médicine, 855–873. Brain Lang. 2003;85(2):262–70.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Exner S. Untersuchungen über die Localisation der Functionen in der Großhirnrinde des Menschen. Vienna: Braumüller; 1881.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Lorch MP, Barrière I. The history of written language disorders: Reexamining Pitres' case (1884) of pure agraphia. Brain Lang. 2003;85(2):271–9. doi: 10.1016/s0093-934x(02)00595-3.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Johnson JK, Lorch M, Nicolas S, Graziano A. Jean-Martin Charcot’s role in the nineteenth-century study of “music aphasia”. Brain. 2013;136(5):1662–70. doi: 10.1093/brain/awt055.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Barrière I, Lorch MP. Premature thoughts on writing disorders. Neurocase. 2004;10(2):91–108.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Lichtheim L. On aphasia. Brain. 1885;7:433–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Dejerine J. Sémiologie des affections du système nerveux. Paris: Masson; 1914.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Dejerine J. Sur un cas de cécité verbale avec agraphie, suivi d'autopsie. C R Seances Soc Biol. 1891;3:197–201.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Geschwind N. Disconnexion syndromes in animals and man. II. Brain. 1965;88(3):585–644.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Goodglass H, Hunter M. A linguistic comparison of speech and writing in two types of aphasia. J Commun Disord. 1970;3(1):28–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Hécaen H, Albert ML. Human neuropsychology. New York: Wiley; 1978.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Benton AL. Reflections on the Gerstmann syndrome. Brain Lang. 1977;4(1):45–62.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Benton AL. Gerstmann's syndrome. Arch Neurol. 1992;49(5):445–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Marshall JC, Newcombe F. Patterns of paralexia: a psycholinguistic approach. J Psycholinguist Res. 1973;2(3):175–99.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Roeltgen DP, Sevush S, Heilman KM. Phonological agraphia writing by the lexical-semantic route. Neurology. 1983;33(6):755.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Smith A. Objective indices of severity of chronic aphasia in stroke patients. J Speech Hear Disord. 1971;36:167–207.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Keenan T. The detection of minimal dysphasia. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1971;52:227–32.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Roeltgen D. Localization of lesions in agraphia. In: Kertesz A, editor. Localization and neuroimaging in neuropsychology. New York: Academic; 1994. p. 377–405.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Roeltgen D, Rapczak S. Acquired disorders of writing and spelling. In: Blanken G, Dittmann J, Grimm H, Marshall JC, Wallesch C-W, editors. Linguistic disorders and pathologies. New York: de Gruyter; 1993.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Benson DF, Geschwind N. The alexias. Handb Clin Neurol. 1969;4:112–40.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Kaplan E, Goodglass H. Aphasia-related disorders. In: Sarno MT, editor. Acquired aphasia. New York: Academic; 1981. p. 303–25.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Auerbach S, Alexander M. Pure agraphia and unilateral optic ataxia associated with a left superior parietal lobule lesion. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 1981;44(5):430–2.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Rosati G, De Bastiani P. Pure agraphia: a discrete form of aphasia. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 1979;42:266–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Laine T, Marttila RJ. Pure agraphia: a case study. Neuropsychologia. 1981;19(2):311–6. doi: 10.1016/0028-3932(81)90115-9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Tanridag O, Kirshner HS. Aphasia and agraphia in lesions of the posterior internal capsule and putamen. Neurology. 1985;35(12):1797.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Benson DF, Cummings J. Agraphia. In: Frederiks JAM, Vinken PJ, editors. Clinical neuropsychology. Handbook of clinical neurology, vol. 45. New York: Elsevier; 1985.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Hécaen H, Marcie P. Disorders of written language following right hemisphere lesions: spatial dysgraphia. In: Dimond S, Beaumont J, editors. Hemispheric function in the human brain. London: Elek Science; 1974.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Chedru F, Geschwind N. Writing disturbances in acute confusional states. Neuropsychologia. 1972;10(3):343–53.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Waxman S, Geschwind N. Hypergraphia in temporal lobe epilepsy. Neurology. 1974;24:629–36.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    McLennan J, Nakano K, Tyler H, Schwab R. Micrographia in Parkinson's disease. J Neurol Sci. 1972;15(2):141–52.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Heyman A, Dawson D, Rogers H. The relationship of agraphia to the severity of dementia in Alzheimer's disease. Arch Neurol. 1988;45(7):760.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    De Smet HJ, Engelborghs S, Paquier PF, De Deyn PP, Marien P. Cerebellar-induced apraxic agraphia: a review and three new cases. Brain Cogn. 2011;76(3). doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2010.12.006.
  48. 48.
    Roux FE, Dufor O, Giussani C, Wamain Y, Draper L, Longcamp M, et al. The graphemic/motor frontal area Exner's area revisited. Ann Neurol. 2009;66(4):537–45.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Purcell JJ, Napoliello EM, Eden GF. A combined fMRI study of typed spelling and reading. Neuroimage. 2011;55(2). doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.11.042.
  50. 50.
    Magrassi L, Bongetta D, Bianchini S, Berardesca M, Arienta C. Central and peripheral components of writing critically depend on a defined area of the dominant superior parietal gyrus. Brain Res. 2010;1346. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2010.05.046.
  51. 51.
    Kleinschmidt A, Rusconi E. Gerstmann meets Geschwind: a crossing (or kissing) variant of a subcortical disconnection syndrome? Neuroscientist. 2011;17(6):633–44. doi: 10.1177/1073858411402093.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Kirshner H, Lavin PM. Posterior cortical atrophy: a brief review. Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2006;6(6):477–80. doi: 10.1007/s11910-006-0049-0.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Hayashi A, Nomura H, Mochizuki R, Ohnuma A, Kimpara T, Ootomo K, et al. Neural substrates for writing impairments in Japanese patients with mild Alzheimer's disease: a SPECT study. Neuropsychologia. 2011;49(7):1962–8.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Shim H, Hurley RS, Rogalski E, Mesulam MM. Anatomic, clinical, and neuropsychological correlates of spelling errors in primary progressive aphasia. Neuropsychologia. 2012;50(8). doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2012.04.017.
  55. 55.
    Nandhagopal R, Al-Asmi A, Johnston WJ, Jacob PC, Arunodaya GR. Callosal warning syndrome. J Neurol Sci. 2012;314(1-2). doi: 10.1016/j.jns.2011.10.007.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Applied Linguistics and Communication, BirkbeckUniversity of LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations