History of the HGARC

After the Second World War the federal government established three National Veterans Centers for the Study of Aphasia. The Center in Boston, located within the VA Boston Healthcare System, attracted a group of talented behavioral neurologists, neuropsychologists, neurolinguists, and speech/language pathologists, and in the mid-1960s was established as the Aphasia Research Center (ARC) of Boston University at the VA Boston Medical Center. Increasingly successful in its research activity and increasingly well-known nationally and internationally, the ARC has been continuously supported by the National Institutes of Health since 1965. To honor Harold Goodglass , who was Director of the ARC from 1969 to 1996, the Center was re-named the Harold Goodglass Aphasia Research Center.

Background of Early Work and Development of the Center

The claims by Broca between 1861 and 1865 that focal lesions in a critical zone of the left frontal lobe were responsible for a selective loss of language output set off a wave of research, speculation, and controversy which continues to the present. Immediately raised were issues of the partition of functions between two grossly symmetrical hemispheres, of the relationships among language, intelligence, and other higher functions, and of the anatomy that might underlie such selectivity of deficit. Broca and his contemporaries set the stage for the succession of further observations, distributed across 140 years, that have extended the frontiers of knowledge in the interlocking fields now known as behavioral neurology, neuropsychology, neurolinguistics, and cognitive neuroscience. The demand for care of brain-injured soldiers after the First World War resulted in more intensive study of aphasia. Kleist in Germany and Head in England based much of their case material on war injuries. It was the Second World War, however, that initiated the burst of new interest in aphasiology that continues to grow in many centers throughout the world. In this country, three National Veterans Aphasia Centers were established immediately after WWII, one in Long Beach, California, one in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and one in Framingham, Massachusetts. The Framingham center moved into the new Boston VA Hospital in 1952 and became the clinical base for the development of this Aphasia Research Center. Until the 1950s observations on aphasia were primarily case by case, almost invariably carried out by neurologists who, although fairly sophisticated in the psychological and linguistic thinking of their time, were strangers to the idea of controlled studies. It was here at the Boston VA Hospital Aphasia Unit that the first controlled psycholinguistic studies of aphasic language, focusing on the production and comprehension of syntax and morphology, were carried out by Goodglass and co-workers in the mid-1950s. Concurrently, Drs. Howes and Geschwind at this hospital were engaged in a large scale analysis of the statistical characteristics of aphasic speech. On the strength of the research team already in place and of the excellent and supportive clinical setting, Dr. Geschwind obtained funding for the Program Project grant that established this Aphasia Research Center in 1965. Since 1965 the HGARC has been supported continuously by the National Institutes of Health. With Dr. Geschwind’s transfer to Harvard Medical School in 1969, Dr. Goodglass became Program Director, while Dr. Geschwind continued as Co-investigator. The cadre of established investigators that gathered in the following years has made this Center an acknowledged world leader in aphasiological research. Although Dr. Geschwind’s untimely death in 1984 represented the loss of a creative and inspirational thinker, the program that he helped to shape has continued to flourish with new young investigators joining the senior staff. Dr. Albert first appeared on the scene as a medical student in 1962, studying behavioral neurology with Dr. Geschwind and neuropsychology with Drs. Goodglass and Kaplan. He became Director of the Center in 1996, when Dr. Goodglass stepped down from that position. To honor Dr. Goodglass, the Center’s name was changed in 1996 to the Harold Goodglass Aphasia Research Center.