More than 795,000 people in the United States have strokes each year. Strokes have a significant effect on mind and body functions, reducing language abilities, mobility, and other functions. The location of a stroke determines its impact on the brain. In a recent study, researchers at the Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) investigated how people recover from a stroke in the brain’s left hemisphere. A left-hemisphere stroke can paralyze the right side of the body. Around 70 percent of left-hemisphere stroke survivors have language problems. Previous research suggested that the right hemisphere interferes with recovery from a left-hemisphere stroke. The new study disproves this, instead demonstrating that the right hemisphere helps people recover from stroke. The finding may aid the development of new stroke treatments.
To find out how well people recover from a left-hemisphere stroke, the researchers evaluated 32 survivors of left-hemisphere stroke who had aphasia. They also evaluated a control group of 30 people who had not experienced a stroke. The researchers conducted language assessments of the stroke survivors to determine the severity of their speech issues. All of the participants went through a high-resolution brain scan, which provided information about brain structure and volume.
The results demonstrated that the right side of the brain aids stroke recovery. Stroke survivors with better-than-expected speech skills, compared to stroke survivors with poorer speech abilities, had larger grey matter volumes in the back of the right hemisphere. This area mirrors the left hemisphere’s speech center. The stroke survivors with better-than-expected speech skills also had more grey matter volume than controls. This suggests that increased growth in right-hemisphere grey matter can compensate for the loss of speech-related areas in the left hemisphere, supporting the recovery of language skills.
Study co-author Dr. Turkeltaub, assistant professor of neurology at GUMC concludes, “Over the past decade, researchers have increasingly suggested that the right hemisphere interferes with good recovery of language after left hemisphere strokes. Our results suggest the opposite—that right hemisphere compensation improves recovery.”
This research is published in the journal Brain.
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