Why Some Stroke Survivors Struggle With Communication

Efforts at language impaired when function has to shift to the right side of the brain, researchers say

MONDAY, April 15 (HealthDay News) -- A shift of language function to the right side of the brain hampers some stroke survivors from recovering their ability to read, write and to say what they mean, a new study indicates.

The inability to do these things is called aphasia, and is caused by damage to the parts of the brain that control language.

The study included 27 right-handed adults who survived a stroke in the left side of their brain. Those who recovered from aphasia showed a return to normal patterns of having language function on the left side of the brain, according to the findings in the current issue of the journal Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience.

"Overall, approximately 30 percent of patients with stroke suffer from various types of aphasia, with this deficit most common in stroke with left middle cerebral artery territory damage," lead investigator Dr. Jerzy Szaflarski, of the departments of neurology at the University of Alabama and University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center, said in a journal news release.

"Some of the affected patients recover to a certain degree in the months and years following the stroke. The recovery process is [affected] by several known factors, but the degree of the contribution of brain areas unaffected by stroke to the recovery process is less clear," Szaflarski explained.

The findings provide new insight and may help lead to improved language rehabilitation methods for stroke survivors, according to the researchers.

The study authors noted that a shift of language function to the right side of the brain can help aphasia recovery in children who have suffered a left-hemisphere injury or stroke. But this type of shift in adults may hamper recovery, because they rely on the left side of brain for maintaining and recovering language ability.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about aphasia.

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