As the foundation for effective communication, the power of the human brain to create and execute language derives from the ability of its structural components to remain intact. Extensive research has found that in 97% of people worldwide, language is typically carried out by the left hemisphere of the brain. Research for lesions in this area therefore, have been well documented. For the 3% of individuals who fall in the category of "atypical cerebral dominance" however, there is little in the available literature. Therefore, this empirical prospective case study sought to document the cognitive and linguistic functions of a 59 year old male who following a right hemisphere stroke acquired a type of language disorder (“aphasia”) typically seen with left hemisphere lesions. More specifically, this study sought to determine the following: To what extent has the right hemisphere preserved function? Has the left hemisphere assumed control over the execution of typical right hemisphere tasks? Given that the language areas of the right hemisphere are damaged, how do these deficits differ from a typical left hemisphere aphasia? To address these questions, a series of iPad and manual cognitive and linguistic tests were administered to the participant. In order to establish reliability, two examiners were used. Following testing, data was organized into three cerebral lobes: frontal, parietal, temporal. Results were used to examine the functionality of skills typically associated with the right hemisphere. Given that the participant demonstrated cerebral reversal for language production and comprehension, the study sought to identity the extent to which the left hemisphere may have lateralized right hemisphere tasks. Results indicated that although the participant experienced damage to areas of both the frontal and temporal lobes, typical right hemisphere cognitive skills associated with these areas appeared intact. In addition, following parietal lobe testing, cognitive skills not generally preserved following right hemisphere damage appeared to be intact indicating that the participant's left hemisphere was most likely carrying out right hemisphere tasks in these areas. Due to the rarity of atypical language lateralization in aphasia, knowledge of the way in which these communication breakdowns manifest is dependent upon the documentation of individual cases. Therefore, the implications of these findings have direct applications to the clinical understanding of how the brain executes language in these individuals. Furthermore, the data obtained from this study is relative to the future expansion of available intervention methods in the field of speech-language pathology.

Note on the Author

Emily Manton is a senior double majoring in Communication Disorders and English. Her research project was completed in the summer of 2014 under the mentorship of Dr. Suzanne Miller (Communication Disorders) and made possible with funding provided by an Adrian Tinsley Program summer research grant. Emily presented this paper at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in 2015.

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