Kurt Goldstein was born on 6 November 1878 in Kattowicz, upper Silesia, Poland,
Which formed at that time a part of Germany. After attending the local public school, he went to the humanistic Gymnasium in Breslau. At the universities of Breslau and Heidelberg, he studied philosophy and literature. He studied medicine under Carl Wernicke, who stimulated his interest in aphasia, graduating M.D. in 1903. He then became a post-doctoral assistant at the Frankfurt neurological institute, where he practiced comparative neurology in the neuropathological laboratory under Ludwig Edinger. In 1906, he moved to Königsberg, where he worked in psychiatry and neurology, and became acquainted with the Würzburg school of experimental psychology, which emphasizes “imageless thought”.
In 1914, Goldstein returned to Frankfurt as Edinger’s first assistant. He soon established his own Institute for Research on the After-Effects of Brain Injury. His very productive collaboration with Adhémar Gelb, an experimental psychologist whose strong point was visual perception, also started here. Goldstein succeeded Edinger in the Neurology chair at Frankfurt. In 1930, he left Frankfurt for Berlin, where he became director of a large neuropsychiatric clinic and a professor at the university in the department of Neurology and Psychiatry.
In 1933, Goldstein was denouned to the Nazis by an assistant and charged with leftist sympathis and Jewishness. Together with Eva Rothmann, a former student who was to become his wife, Goldstein went to The United States in 1935, at the ate of 56. He started a new career in New York at Columbia University, the New York Psychiatric Institute, and the Montefiori Hospital. In 1938, he traveled to Boston to deliver the William James Lectures and from 1940 to 1945, he served as clinical professor of Neurology at Tufts University, Medford, Mass. He then returned to New York because of his wife’s illness. In 1965, Goldstein suffered a stroke with right
Theory of aphasia
Background - Chaos
There are different opinions in the late 19th century Bismarck era in Germany. In line with different political thinking; there was a sharp division between localizers of the Fritsch and Hitzig creed, and antilocalizers who followed Goltz.
Localization held the field in the 19th century , but the antilocalizationists raised their heads again in the 20th century, with Kurt Goldstein as one of their main representatives. The alternative Goltzian view re-emerged, stressing compensation, adaptation, cooperation, and the activity of the organism as a whole, rather than boundaries, order and regularity of brain functions.
The Language Module
Goldstein thought that it is a disturbance of the language module, the “Sprachfeld”, which gives rise to true aphasia. Goldstein reclassified aphasic phenomena using the following main criteria:
(1) Disturbance of peripheral language mechanisms or of the instrumentalities of speech = pure motor and sensory aphasia. Inner speech and the periphery are intact but interruped from each other.
(2) Disturbance of the central language system or inner speech = central aphasia. The “Sprachfeld” itself is disturbed.
(3) Disturbance of non-lilnguistic cognitive abilities. Either the conceptual field itself or its connected to the Sprachfeld is disturbed.
The Organismic Approach
The basic idea behind this approach is that an organism does not consist of eyes, legs, a brain, etc. but that an organism with eyes, legs, etc. When anything happens to a part, it affects the whole, which reacts in its entirety to the changed situation. The same, Goldstein thought, applies to language and language disturbances. “The individual speech performance is understandable only from the aspect of its relation to the function of the total organism in its endeavor to realize itself as much as possible in the given situation” (Goldstein, 1948, p.21).
Single Case Study
Goldstein’s breach with the classical reduction of schematic psychological functions to specific brain centers led him away from an easy and rigid classification of patients into aphasic syndromes. He recognized the danger of examining the patients through the filter of one’s particular brain-and-language diagram and of neglecting to ask a wider variety of questions including the right ones for the patient and for a more adequate theory. This, together with his organismic approach — for all the esoteric subjectivism it may contain – led him to pay close attention to the individual patient in very many performances and situations.