When a stroke affects the language areas in the left side of the brain, the right side takes over and learns how to perform language tasks, according to research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The study found that patients right side of the brain is more active than normal during a verbal language task, and that the right sides activity decreases with practice, similar to what happens on the left side of the brain in healthy individuals.
"This is the first demonstration that learning and, by extension, speech therapy change the way compensatory pathways in the brain work," says Maurizio Corbetta, M.D., head of stroke and brain injury rehabilitation. "This study supports the hypothesis that brain pathways in the right hemisphere are directly involved in the recovery of language after stroke."
The study appears in the Sept. 26 issue of the journal Neuron. Corbetta, the studys senior author, also is associate professor of neurology, of radiology and of anatomy and neurobiology. The first author is Valeria Blasi, M.D., a former post-doctoral fellow in neurology at the School of Medicine, who now is at the San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan, Italy.
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