What is right hemisphere brain damage?
Right hemisphere brain damage is damage that is limited to the right side of the brain. The brain consists of two hemisphere, each responsible for different functions and skills. In most individuals, the left hemisphere contains their language centers while the right hemisphere controls cognitive functioning (thinking skills.) Damage to the right hemisphere leads to difficulties in cognitive-communication such as impaired memory, attention problems, and poor reasoning. In many cases, the individual of right brain damage is unaware of the issues they are experiencing.
What are some signs or symptoms of right hemisphere brain damage?
Cognitive-communication problems that can occur from right hemisphere damage include difficulty with the following:
- left-side neglect
- problem solving
- social communication (Pragmatics)
Attention: issues in concentration and multitasking
Left-side neglect: a form of attention deficit. It is when the patient no longer acknowledges the left side of their body or space (ex. the patient will not notice the left side of their hair and neglect to brush it. They may also start from the middle of a page in reading as they don’t notice the left side of the page.)
Memory: Difficulty in remember information such as important dates. Also have a hard time learning new information.
Orientation: Recalling the date, time, or place can be difficult and may not be able to remember important things about themselves such as their own birthday, age, or family names.
Organization: Difficulty in telling a story in order, giving directions, or staying on topic in conversations.
Problem solving: May have inappropriate responses to comment evens such as a car breaking down, and could cause serious harm to themselves or others if not supervised.
Reasoning: Problems interpreting abstract language, metaphors, or responding appropriately to humor.
Social communication (pragmatics): Inappropriate behavior, failure to use facial expression, speaking out of turn, or difficulties in understanding nonverbal communication.
What treatment is available for individuals with right hemisphere brain damage?
An individual with damage to the right hemisphere of their brain should see a speech language pathologist who is trained to work with people and communication disorders as well as their doctor. The SLP can help the patient develop a treatment plan that is designed to improve their cognitive-communication abilities.
How can I communicate more effectively with a person with right hemisphere brain damage?
- Ask questions and use reminders to keep the individual on topic
- Avoid sarcasm, metaphors, etc., when speaking to the individual
- Provide a consistent routine every day
- Break down instructions to small steps and repeat directions as needed
- Decrease distractions when communicating
- Provide appropriate supervision to ensure the person’s safety
- Stand to the person’s right side and place objects to the person’s right if he or she is experiencing left-side neglect