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A guide to left hemisphere brain damage

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.

What is controlled by the left side of the brain?

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.

How left hemisphere brain damage impacts daily life

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:

  • Difficulty expressing and understanding language at the word, sentence, or conversational level
  • Trouble reading and writing
  • Changes in speech
  • Deficits in planning, organization, and memory as those skills relate to language
  • Weakness or lack of movement on the right side of the body

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.

How is Left Hemisphere Brain Damage Treated?

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.

Tips for caring for someone with left hemisphere brain damage

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:

  • Change how you communicate – There are many strategies that can both help your loved one understand you, as well as assist them in conveying their own message. A few helpful actions may include:
    • Speaking slowly
    • Using simple language and short phrases
    • Writing down key words
    • Making sure you have their attention before speaking
    • Limiting interruptions
    • Giving your loved one extra time to formulate their message and then speak
    • Utilizing alternative ways of communicating (e.g., writing, drawing, and using gestures)
    • Asking “yes/no” questions during communication breakdowns
  • Eliminate background noise – excess noise can be distracting and make it hard to focus, communicate, and implement strategies.
  • Help with planning and problem-solving – this can involve helping your loved one write out the steps to a task before completing it or using tools such as planners and calendars.
  • Lead with empathy ­– Your loved one will be struggling with certain skills that were previously second nature, and empathy can foster patience when situations become difficult. Remember, your mental and emotional health is important throughout this process, and empathy can help.
  • Take care of yourself­ – just like emergency protocols before a flight, “put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others”. In order to provide the best care for your loved one, you must make sure you are taking proper care of yourself. Seek support, take time to participate in the activities you enjoy, and be mindful of your own health.

 

References and further reading

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 Reviews44(1), 1-12.

 

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5 Comments

  1. Robert Judd

    Good information. How do I increase therapy to improve speech?

    Reply
    • Constant Therapy

      Great question! There are many components to improving your speech, and the best way to understanding exactly where your strengths and weaknesses lie is to get a full evaluation by a Speech-Language Pathologist. Additionally, the Constant Therapy app can help to drill down on exactly what you need to work on to improve your speech by looking at your performance within the app – our app adjusts based on your accuracy and speed to give you harder or easier tasks.

      Reply
  2. Clark Pearson

    Thank you for your help! I appreciate your articles, and I will work more time on my iPad, and I hope I get a new iPad, with my old iPad
    Clark

    Reply
  3. Morgan Hannon

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    I would like to thank you for the informative emails that always give me details about my injury. The last email that I received has let me know that I am working in the right direction. I hope that my brain health will be much more improved next year.

    I hope that you all have a nice day and stay safe.

    Kindest regards,
    Morgan. (In Ireland)

    Reply
  4. Kay Seares

    As the wife of a stroke victim I’ve found your article very interesting and helpful. Thank you.

    Reply

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