Recent research by scientists at Georgetown University Medical Center in the United States has discovered that the right side of the brain can recover loss of speech following a stroke. This is in direct contradiction to the recent suggestions that the right hemisphere of the brain obstructs recovery, and offers a new direction for a debate that’s been going on for over 130 years.
Published online in Brain, this study is the first to examine the structure of the brain and the volume of grey matter as they attempt to understand how speech is recovered following stroke. Their results have proved very interesting, as they show that patients who regained speech have an increase in the volume of grey matter at the back of their right hemisphere, which mirrors the location of one the two speech areas in the left hemisphere.
Almost 70% of patients with left hemisphere strokes experience language problems, with most of them never fully regaining their speech
Following a stroke, approximately one-third of survivors lose their speech and language, with loss of speech occurring almost exclusively in those who have suffered a stroke in their left hemisphere. Almost 70% of patients with left hemisphere strokes experience language problems, with most of them never fully regaining their speech. For the last ten years, researchers have been under the assumption that the right hemisphere impedes recovery, whereas the results of this study suggest the opposite is true.
The study involved 32 survivors of a left-hemisphere stroke, with the researchers exploring whether an increase in the volume of grey matter in the right hemisphere leads to an improvement in speech abilities. A control group was also used, which contained 30 people who had not experienced a stroke. The results showed that stroke patients who had better than anticipated speech abilities after their stroke had a larger volume of grey matter at the back of their right brain hemisphere, in comparison to those patients who exhibited worse speech. The same areas were also larger in the brains of stroke survivors than in those of the control group, indicating that there had been growth in these areas following their stroke.
The researchers are continuing their study and are currently looking to uncover the areas of the brain that compensate for other aspects of language use, such as comprehension.
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