If you have suffered a right-sided brain injury, many things in your daily life are going to be different.
You probably have noticed that you have trouble doing actions with the left side of your body. You may have difficulty remembering or paying attention to things.
If you are a caregiver or family member of a person with right hemisphere brain damage, you may also have noticed problems that the person with the injury is unaware of.
To help you and your loved ones better understand and cope with the challenges of right hemisphere brain damage, we’ve put together this list of side effects that can occur after a right-side brain injury.
We’ll also go over what your overall approach for treating right hemisphere brain damage should be.
Before we do all that though, let’s start with a quick overview of the brain.
Understanding Right Side Brain Injuries
To understand how a right side brain injury will affect you or a loved one, you’ll need to understand how the brain works.
The brain is divided into two sides, called the right and left hemispheres.
In general, the left half controls a person’s logical and verbal functions, while the right half is in charge of non-verbal and intuitive functions.
Some of these non-verbal, intuitive functions include:
- Visual and spatial abilities
- Facial recognition
- Musical ability.
Damage to the right hemisphere can affect all of these abilities and more.
The right side of your brain also controls movement and perception on the left side of your body, and vice versa.
This is why after an injury to the right hemisphere, you may have trouble moving muscles on your left side.
Treating Right Side Brain Injuries
Treating right side brain injuries, like all TBIs, takes a lot of dedication and work.
But if you persevere with your therapy, it is always possible to regain abilities you’ve lost! Even years after injury.
The reason you can do this is because your brain possesses a natural ability to rewire itself and allow healthy portions of the brain to take over functions from damaged areas.
This process is called neuroplasticity, and it is the key to reversing the effects of traumatic brain injury and restoring independence.
The best part is neuroplasticity is something you can actually activate yourself, and the way to do so is through massed practice. (i.e. high repetition exercises)
In response to an action, your brain creates neural pathways that help make it easier for you to perform that action in the future. The more you repeat an activity, the more these neural pathways are reinforced.
Which means the more you practice an action, the easier it will become!
That’s why almost all of treatments for the effects of right hemisphere brain damage listed below emphasize massed practice.
No matter what ability you want to improve or regain, you’re going to need do lots and lots of exercises!
With that said, here are 11 of the most common effects of a right side brain injury and how to treat them.
Effects of Right Side Brain Injuries
An injury to the right side of your brain results in many cognitive difficulties. It can also affect some of a person’s language abilities.
Below is a list of the most common effects of right hemisphere brain damage.
1. Attention and Concentration Problems
Right side brain injuries often cause difficulties concentrating and focusing on a task.
It can also make it hard to follow a conversation or focus on what a person is saying.
2. Memory and Orientation Problems
Right hemisphere brain damage can lead to problems remembering new and old information, as well as difficulties recalling the date, time or place.
Treatment for Attention and Memory problems:
Practicing memory games and other cognitive exercises for TBI patients can help you improve and regain your cognitive abilities.
3. Left Side Weakness (Hemiparesis)
As we learned above, each hemisphere of the brain controls movement on the opposite side of the body.
This is why brain damage on the right side often leads to muscle weakness on the left side.
To restore movement and strength, your best option is to practice physical therapy exercises that utilize your affected muscles.
Massed practice of PT exercises help your brain rebuild and strengthen neural pathways that control movement. So the more you practice, the easier it will become to move your left side.
4. Visual and Spatial Perception Problems
A right side brain injury can cause problems with processing information in the left visual field, often called left-side neglect.
A person with left-side neglect will not see any objects on their left side. They will also have trouble reading words on the left half of a page, and may even ignore food on the left side of their plate.
They can also have trouble drawing. For example, they will draw a clock with all the numbers on one side.
Often times people with left-side neglect will not even realize they have a problem. This is related to another side effect of brain damage called anosognosia, which we will cover in more detail later on in this article.
5. Problems with Facial Recognition (Prosopagnosia)
Brain damage to the right side of the brain can lead to an inability to recognize the faces of familiar people or loved ones. If you have this condition, looking at the face of your best friend can feel like looking at a stranger.
However, prosopagnosia does not make you forget a person or mean you have no way of identifying them. For example, you can still recognize your husband or wife’s voice and remember who they are.
Treatment for prosopagnosia will usually involve naming therapy to help retrain your brain and develop recognition and recall skills.
A trained speech language pathologist can help you with this therapy and teach you tricks to improve recognition.
6. Social Communication Problems
People with right hemisphere damage can have difficulty interpreting abstract language such as metaphors. They also have trouble understanding humor and non-verbal cues.
They might also have problems grasping other people’s emotions and point-of view, and as a result will sometimes accidentally say inappropriate or rude comments.
A psychologist or cognitive behavioral therapist can help you relearn social cues and teach you the subtleties of human interaction.
7. Insight and Organization Problems
Right side brain injuries can make it difficult to arrange information. It can cause problems with executive functioning skills such as organizing and planning basic tasks.
Damage to the right hemisphere also makes it difficult for a person to recognize a problem and understand its impact. This can lead to impaired judgment and safety hazards.
8. Problems with Reasoning and Problem Solving
Even though generally the left side of the brain is in charge of logic and reason, the right side does have a role to play in those skills as well.
Because the right side controls our imagination and helps us organize information, it allows us to perceive things more fully and generate creative solutions.
If the right side of the brain is damaged, this can severely hamper a person’s ability to identify and solve problems.
Massed practice of cognitive therapy exercises can help you regain and relearn problem solving skills.
9. Problems with Musicality of Speech (Monotone Voice)
The right side of the brain affects a person’s awareness and appreciation of music, and this awareness also plays a part in the way we speak.
Normal speech has a sort of natural melody to it. As we speak, our voices fluctuate between different pitches and tones to convey mood and emphasis.
When a person suffers damage to the right side of their brain, not only is their ability to appreciate music diminished, but they have trouble picking up on the subtle changes in pitch or tone during speech.
This diminished musical ability causes the person to sound monotone when speaking, giving them an almost robotic like voice.
To treat problems with musicality of speech, see a licensed speech therapist. Massed practice of certain speech therapy exercises can help you learn to modulate your voice and recognize subtle changes in pitch.
10. Emotional Problems
The emotion center of the brain is located in the right hemisphere. So damage to the right hemisphere will cause your emotions to sometimes feel out of your control.
After a right-side brain injury, a person can experience two different types of emotional difficulties. They are known clinically as pseudobulbar affect and flat affect syndromes.
- Pseudobulbar Affect Syndrome is when your emotions are extremely heightened in their sensitivity. You may go from laughing to crying in a matter of seconds, for no apparent reason. You may also fly into fits of rage after a small inconvenience.
- Flat Affect is when you experience a total lack of emotion after your injury. This can also refer to the lack of ability to show emotion through facial expressions.
A professional neuropsychologist can help treat both of these conditions. For pseudobulbar affect, they can help you to recognize what your emotions are and teach you coping strategies to control them.
For flat affect, depending on the severity, a psychologist can help you become better at expressing emotion non-verbally.
You may also require anti-depressants and/or mood stabilizing medications.
11. Denial Syndrome (Anosognosia)
In most people, denial is a psychological defense mechanism against trauma.
At first glance, it may seem like people who have suffered a right side brain injury but are adamant that nothing is wrong may just be using denial as a coping method.
While sometimes this is true, sometimes the denial is actually caused by a complicated neurological condition, not a psychological one. Which can make it more difficult to treat.
With anosognosia, the part of the brain that detects feedback from the left side of the body is malfunctioning, and as a result, the person can feel like they are moving their left side when they actually are not.
This can make it difficult or nearly impossible to get the person to participate in therapy.
Anosognosia is a difficult thing to overcome, since the person does not believe there is anything wrong. Still, there are some options available.
Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) can help someone alter their self-image to accept that they have a condition that requires treatment. MET tries to get a person to look at their symptoms objectively. It is usually used to help people with addictions, but can be used to treat anosognosia as well.
If they refuse MET, be gentle and understand that their denial is a medical condition, and not just normal stubbornness. As tempting as it might be, don’t try to force them to see they have a problem.
It’s a good idea to consult a neuropsychologist who can help you learn effective ways to care for a person with anosognosia. They may even be able to suggest more specific tactics you can use to help your loved understand their condition.
How to Care for Someone with Right Hemisphere Brain Damage
Finally, here are some helpful tips to help you care for a loved one with a right side brain injury.
- Help them with Routines and Planning. Because right hemisphere damage can affect executive functioning and planning skills, try to help your loved one with setting up a daily routine they can follow. You’ll want to break down directions into small, easy-to-follow steps, and be sure to repeat instructions. They may also need help initiating and following through with new actions, so be sure to keep that in mind.
- Help increase awareness of their left side. Remind them to scan their surroundings to compensate for any loss of vision on their left side. You can also try standing next to their left side during a conversation, which can help them become more aware of their neglected side and retrain their brain.
And that’s a wrap! We hope this guide helps you and your loved ones as you recover from a right-side brain injury.