What Hemisphere of the Brain is Dominant for Language?

Profile of brain (left side)
The left side of the brain houses the machinery for language. BSIP/UIG/Getty Images

Definition: The dominant language hemisphere is the area located in the left side of the brain and is responsible for the power of speech, comprehension and memory. When a person has a stroke, brain tumor or injury that affects the left side of the brain, their ability to use language is disrupted.

The brain is divided into two halves, the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere. The left hemisphere is responsible for specialized language and logic.

The right hemisphere is responsible for creativity, including art and imagination.

The function of the right side of the body is controlled by the left hemisphere while the left side of the body is controlled by the right hemisphere.  For most people, language development is in the left hemisphere but for almost 20 percent of left-handed people, the right hemisphere is responsible for language development.

The Lobes of the Brain

Each hemisphere of the brain is divided into functional sections known as lobes. There are four lobes in each half of the brain. They are:

  • Frontal lobe – located under the forehead. The frontal lobe controls personality, behavior, control of emotions and the ability to organize.
  • Parietal lobe – located near the back and top of the head, above the ears. The parietal lobe controls the ability to read, write and understand spatial concepts.
  • Occipital lobe – located at the back of the head. The occipital lobe is responsible for control of sight.
  • Temporal lobe – located at the side of the head above the ears and below the frontal lobe. The temporal lobe controls memory, speech and comprehension.

Patients with brain injuries to the left hemisphere typically experience problems on the right side of their body, including losing the power of language, memory for spoken and written messages and control of the right side of the body.

Patients with brain damage to the right hemisphere typically experience problems on the left side of their body, including spatial judgement, understanding and remembering things and controlling the left side of the body.

After a stroke, patients typically experience problems with communication. Also known as aphasia, this condition can affect the ability to find the right words, understand what others are saying and the ability to read or write.

Types of Aphasia

There are four types of aphasia. They are:

  • Expressive aphasia, also known as Broca’s aphasia – the inability to find the words needed to say
  • Receptive aphasia, also known as Wernicke’s aphasia – the inability to understand the spoken or written word
  • Anomic or amnesia aphasia – the inability to find the correct name for objects, people, or places
  • Global aphasia – the inability to speak or understand speech, read or write

Treatment of Aphasia

Recovery from aphasia is possible. The most common form of treatment is speech therapy. Other kinds of therapy include:

  • Singing therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Visual speech perception therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Medication

At home therapy, to support aphasia recovery may include:

  • Playing word-based games
  • Asking questions that require a yes or no
  • Cooking a new recipe
  • Practicing writing
  • Reading or singing out loud

Communicating with Aphasia Patients

While it may be difficult to communicate, patients with aphasia have several options when interacting with others.

Some of these options include:

  • Using pictures to make conversations easier
  • Having a conversation in a quiet, non-distracting area
  • Drawing or writing
  • Showing people what works best
  • Talking when there are no time limits
  • Connecting with people by email or blog
  • Showing a card that explains your condition to others

Conversely, for those people without aphasia, communicating with aphasia patients can be made easier with some of the following methods:

  • Using pictures or props to make conversation
  • Drawing or writing
  • Speaking simply and slowly
  • Treating the patient with a level of intelligence

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