Have you ever heard someone talk about being “left-brained” or “right-brained”? People who consider themselves to be “right-brained” are often thought to be artistic, creative, and intuitive. “Left-brained” individuals, on the other hand, may be more logical, analytical, and detail-oriented.
While it may not be entirely accurate to view personality in this way, it makes sense that people think of the brain as being separated into two parts. The brain is divided into the right side (or hemisphere) and the left side. These hemispheres are connected in the middle by a bundle of nerve fibers known as the corpus callosum. Because of this, the two sides of the brain work together in some ways. However, they control different functions and abilities that we use in our day-to-day lives. That is why people who have damage to the left side of their brain often experience different challenges compared to those who have right hemisphere brain damage.
Some people call the left hemisphere the “language hub” of the brain. It is not hard to see where this name came from, because this part of the brain plays a significant role in our ability to use and understand language, including reading and writing. We also rely on the left hemisphere to help us speak, solve problems, make computations, and move the right side of our body, since each hemisphere of the brain controls movement on the opposite side of the body.
People who have been impacted by left hemisphere brain damage often experience communication, cognition, and movement-related problems.
Left hemisphere brain damage can lead to:
If you have damage to this part of your brain, you may find it hard to retrieve the words you want and to then put those words together following grammatical rules when you are talking to someone. Additionally, it may be hard to understand what others are saying to you. These difficulties are characteristic of aphasia. You may have trouble coordinating the movements of your mouth to say words (apraxia), experience weakness in the muscles you need for speech (dysarthria), or have trouble moving the right side of your body altogether. It can also be more difficult to reason through problems, remember things you hear, and put ideas in order. Any of these impairments can create challenges that impact quality of life.
Individuals with brain damage have been shown to benefit from rehabilitation, including (but not limited to) speech-language therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. Clinicians can employ evidence-based therapeutic methods to improve and support speech, language, cognitive, and physical abilities that may have been impacted post-injury. These therapies can enable patients to live more functionally and independently within their communities.
The other great news is that the brain has amazing abilities to heal and compensate for damage. Neuroimaging studies have proven that our brains are “plastic”, meaning that they can change the way they work. We’ve seen evidence of different parts of the brain taking over for damaged parts – even areas of the brain in the opposite hemisphere! Check out our blog post on the 10 principles of neuroplasticity to learn more.
There are many ways that caregivers can support a loved one as they navigate these newfound challenges. While the areas in which someone may need help will vary, here are a few suggestions:
Marissa is a practicing speech-language pathologist clinical fellow serving English and Spanish-speaking patients at Northeast Rehabilitation Hospital. She is also a Clinical and Scientific Consultant for Constant Therapy Health, where she is involved in content development, advisement on product features, and other app-related clinical support.
Brain Injury Association of America. (2020, March 18). Functions of the Brain. Retrieved from https://www.biausa.org/brain-injury/about-brain-injury/basics/function-of-the-brain
Cleveland Clinic. How to Better Communicate with Stroke Patients. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/10408-right–and-left-brain-strokes-tips-for-the-caregiver
Josse, G., & Tzourio-Mazoyer, N. (2004). Hemispheric specialization for language. Brain Research Reviews, 44(1), 1-12.