Language and the Dominant Side of the Brain (2022)

The brain has two hemispheres (sides) that are two identical-appearing halves. The functions of the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere virtually mirror each other, with the right side of the brain controlling the left half of the body's movement, sensation, vision, and hearing, while the left side controls the right half of these functions.

Language and the Dominant Side of the Brain (1)

The Dominant and Non-Dominant Hemispheres

There are afew differences between the functions of the left and right hemispheres of the brain. One hemisphere is referred to as the dominant hemisphere, and it is most associated with language and with logical skills. The areas of the brain that control speech and mathematical abilities are located in the dominant hemisphere.

The non-dominant hemisphere is responsible for creativity, including art and imagination. The non-dominant hemisphere is also responsible for integrating spatial information and for controlling a sense of awareness of three-dimensional space.

The dominant hemisphere of the brain is usually the hemisphere opposite your dominant hand. For right-handed individuals, the dominant hemisphere is typically on the left side. For left-handed individuals, the dominant hemisphere may be on the right side. This is why a stroke in the same location may affect left-handed person and a right-handed person differently.

Strokes Of Dominant vs. Non-Dominant Hemispheres

People who have experienced brain injuries to the dominant hemisphere typically experience problems on the opposite side of their body, as well as trouble with language, which is called aphasia. Aphasia can affect the ability to find the right words, the ability to understand what others are saying, and the ability to read or write.

People who have experienced brain injuries to the non-dominant hemisphere typically experience problems on the opposite side of their body, as well as problems with spatial judgment, and with understanding and remembering things.

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 at the front of the brain, right behind the forehead. The frontal lobe is quite large, occupying about one-third of the cerebral cortex's total mass, and it controls personality, behavior, emotional regulation, and the ability to plan, solve problems, and 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.The function of the left and right parietal lobes do not completely mirror each other, with the dominant parietal lobe controlling speech and logic, while the non-dominant parietal lobe controls spatial skills and creativity. In fact, a stroke affecting the non-dominant parietal lobe can produce its own set of problems, including disorientation and an inability to recognize one's own body.
  • Occipital lobe: A small region located at the back of the head. The occipital lobe is responsible for the integration of vision.
  • Temporal lobe: Located at the side of the head above the ears and below the frontal lobe. The temporal lobe controls hearing, memory, speech, and comprehension.

Types of Aphasia

When a person experiences a stroke, brain tumor, or injury that affects the dominant side of the brain, the ability to use language is disrupted.

The language areas of the brain include several structures that are located in the frontal, temporal, and parietal lobes. A stroke or another injury to any of these specialized language regions, which include Broca's area, Wernicke's area, and the arcuate fasciculus, can cause specific types of aphasia that correspond to the specific language region of the brain affected by the stroke or brain injury.

Some of the most common types of aphasia include:

  • Expressive aphasia, also known as Broca’s aphasia: The inability to speak in a fluent and clear way.
  • Receptive aphasia, also known as Wernicke’s aphasia: The inability to understand the meaning of spoken or written language. Often, people who have Wernicke's aphasia can speak fluently but speak with words and phrases that do not make sense.
  • 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.

Management of Aphasia

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

(Video) Language and the brain: Aphasia and split-brain patients | MCAT | Khan Academy

  • 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

Guidelines jointly published by the American Heart Association and American Stroke for stroke recovery recommend communication partner training to help improve overall speech outcomes for stroke survivors with aphasia. Communication partners can be family members and caregivers, healthcare professionals, or others in the community.

Communicating With Stroke Survivors Who Have Aphasia

While it may be difficult to communicate, people 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
  • Connecting with people by email or blog
  • Showing a card that explains your condition to others

Conversely, for those people without aphasia, communicating with stroke survivors who have aphasia can be made easier with some of the following methods:

  • Using pictures or props to make conversation
  • Drawing or writing
  • Speaking simply and slowly

A Word From Verywell

The dominant hemisphere of the brain controls language, which is one of our more important ways of interacting with the world. Any injury to the dominant hemisphere of the brain—such as stroke, tumor, or head trauma—can cause aphasia.

Aphasia is challenging for the person who has this condition, as well as for loved ones and caregivers. The majority of stroke survivors who have aphasia experience some recovery, which can be optimized through rehabilitative therapy after a stroke.

13 Sources

(Video) Psycholinguistics: Language and the Brain

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Brain basics: Know your brain.

  2. Corballis MC. Left brain, right brain: facts and fantasies.PLoS Biol. 2014;12(1):e1001767. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001767

  3. Demarin V, Bedeković MR, Puretić MB, Pašić MB. Arts, Brain and Cognition.Psychiatr Danub. 2016;28(4):343–348.

  4. Mazoyer B, Zago L, Jobard G, et al. Gaussian mixture modeling of hemispheric lateralization for language in a large sample of healthy individuals balanced for handedness. PLoS ONE. 2014;9(6):e101165. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0101165

  5. Harris JE, Eng JJ. Individuals with the dominant hand affected following stroke demonstrate less impairment than those with the nondominant hand affected.Neurorehabil Neural Repair. 2006;20(3):380–389. doi:10.1177/1545968305284528

  6. Fridriksson J, Den Ouden DB, Hillis AE, et al. Anatomy of aphasia revisited. Brain. 2018;141(3):848-862. doi:10.1093/brain/awx363

  7. Chen TY, Chen CY, Yen CH, et al. Acute parietal lobe infarction presenting as Gerstmann's syndrome and cognitive decline mimicking senile dementia.Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2013;9:937–940. doi:10.2147/NDT.S43527

    (Video) Language and the Dominant Side Of the Brain...Aphasia...(part1)

  8. Kiran S, Thompson CK. Neuroplasticity of language networks in aphasia: Advances, updates, and future challenges.Front Neurol. 2019;10:295. doi:10.3389/fneur.2019.00295

  9. Tippett DC, Niparko JK, Hillis AE. Aphasia: Current concepts in theory and practice.J Neurol Transl Neurosci. 2014;2(1):1042.

  10. Schlaug G, Norton A, Marchina S, Zipse L, Wan CY. From singing to speaking: facilitating recovery from nonfluent aphasia.Future Neurol. 2010;5(5):657–665. doi:10.2217/fnl.10.44

  11. Hung YX, Huang PC, Chen KT, Chu WC. What do stroke patients look for in game-based rehabilitation: A survey study.Medicine (Baltimore). 2016;95(11):e3032. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000003032

  12. Winstein CJ, Stein J, Arena R, et al. American Heart Association Stroke Council, Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing, Council on Clinical Cardiology, and Council on Quality of Care and Outcomes Research. Guidelines for Adult Stroke Rehabilitation and Recovery: A Guideline for Healthcare Professionals From the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke. 2016 Jun;47(6):e98-e169. doi: 10.1161/STR.0000000000000098.

  13. Mazaux JM, Lagadec T, de Sèze MP, et al. Communication activity in stroke patients with aphasia.J Rehabil Med. 2013;45(4):341–346. doi:10.2340/16501977-1122

Language and the Dominant Side of the Brain (2)

By Jose Vega MD, PhD
Jose Vega MD, PhD, is a board-certified neurologist and published researcher specializing in stroke.

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FAQs

What is the language dominant side of the brain? ›

Abstract. In most people the left hemisphere of the brain is dominant for language. Because of the increased incidence of atypical right-hemispheric language in left-handed neurological patients, a systematic association between handedness and dominance has long been suspected.

Why the left hemisphere of the brain understands language better than the right? ›

Why the left hemisphere of the brain understands language better than the right. Summary: Nerve cells in the brain region planum temporale have more synapses in the left hemisphere than in the right hemisphere -- which is vital for rapid processing of auditory speech, according to new research.

Which side of the brain has better language skills? ›

University of Delaware cognitive neuroscientist Zhenghan Qi was surprised by the results: “The left hemisphere is known as the language-learning part of the brain, but we found that it was the right hemisphere that determined the eventual success” in learning Mandarin. “This was new,” she said.

What does the right side of the brain do with language? ›

In most people, language skills are in the left side of the brain. The right side controls attention, memory, reasoning, and problem solving. RHD may lead to problems with these important thinking skills. A person with RHD may have trouble communicating with others because of this damage.

What does dominant side mean? ›

dominant side the half of the body in which a person is stronger; writing and eating are usually done with the hand on the dominant side. See also handedness.

Is learning a language right or left brain? ›

Summary: When it comes to learning a language, the left side of the brain has traditionally been considered the hub of language processing. But new research shows the right brain plays a critical early role in helping learners identify the basic sounds associated with a language.

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