There are 9 major areas of the brain that can be affected by stroke. Each area of the brain controls different functions, and everyone’s brain is wired a bit differently.
You’re about to learn which areas of the brain can be affected by stroke, along with common side effects. It’s not a foolproof formula by any means, but it provides a rough idea of what to expect from each type of stroke.
First up, it’s important to know what a stroke is.
What Is a Stroke?
A stroke occurs when the supply of blood in the brain becomes compromised. This can happen by either a blood clot obstructing an artery (called an ischemic stroke) or an artery in the brain bursting (called a hemorrhagic stroke).
During a stroke, the affected areas of the brain do not receive enough oxygen-rich blood. As a result, brain tissue begins to die. Depending on the area of the brain affected by stroke, this damage will create certain side effects.
Although it’s impossible to revive dead brain cells, recovery is possible through neuroplasticity. This process allows healthy parts of the brain to take over the functions damaged by stroke.
The goal of stroke rehabilitation is to restore the side effects sustained to your highest potential. These side effects vary from person to person based on the size and location of the stroke.
Next, we will discuss the different areas of the brain affected by stroke so that you can better understand what to expect.
Cortical Strokes vs Subcortical Strokes
Before we dive into the different areas of the brain affected by stroke, you should know the difference between cortical vs subcortical strokes.
The cerebral cortex/cerebrum is a large part of the brain that includes 4 lobes: the frontal lobe, parietal lobe, occipital lobe, and temporal lobe. Strokes in these regions are known as a cortical strokes.
Aside from the cerebrum, there are subcortical structures that lie deep within the brain. Strokes in these areas of the brain are also known as subcortical strokes.
The arteries that supply these areas of the brain are smaller and more delicate. Subcortical strokes are often hemorrhagic strokes due to the fragile arteries bursting, often from high blood pressure.
There are many differences between cortical and subcortical strokes. For example, cortical strokes often impact higher level functioning; and it’s uncommon for subcortical strokes to result in language difficulties.
We will discuss other patterns next!
Areas of the Brain Affected by Stroke
Below, you’ll learn about the different parts of the brain that can be impacted by stroke. You will find a short summary of the side effects, and you can click the link in each section to learn more.
The side effects will vary from person to person, so it’s best to reference a full list of stroke side effects to get an even better idea of what to expect after stroke.
Here are the major areas of the brain that can be affected by stroke:
1. Frontal Lobe Stroke
Almost two-thirds of the brain are dedicated to the frontal lobe. It should be no surprise that the frontal lobe plays a role in many functions. Motor skills, executive functioning, speech, language, and social skills are all controlled, in some part, by the frontal lobe.
Side effects of a frontal lobe stroke (a type of cortical stroke) include motor impairments, spatial issues (like hemineglect), behavior changes, difficulty with speech (aphasia, dysarthria, or apraxia of speech), among others.
2. Parietal Lobe Stroke
A parietal lobe stroke mostly affects sensory interpretation along with language skills and spatial awareness. Some side effects of this cortical stroke include hemineglect, difficulty writing (agraphia), difficulty reading (alexia), difficulty speaking (aphasia), and more.
3. Temporal Lobe Stroke
The temporal lobe, also part of the cerebrum, is an area of the brain that controls hearing and other sensory processes. A temporal lobe stroke may affect hearing, vision, speech, along with other side effects.
4. Occipital Lobe Stroke
The occipital lobe, the final type of cortical stroke, plays a large role in your vision. As a result, and occipital lobe stroke often results in vision difficulties like central vision loss, cortical blindness, visual hallucinations, or other side effects.
5. Brain Stem Stroke
A brain stem stroke is one of 5 major types of subcortical strokes. The brain stem is comprised of the midbrain, pons, and medulla oblongata.
The brain stem controls basic body functions like breathing, sweating, and consciousness. Therefore, common side effects after a brain stem stroke include coma, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), among other side effects.
6. Cerebellar Stroke
A stroke in the cerebellum is called a cerebellar stroke – the 2nd type of subcortical stroke. The cerebellum controls some sensory functions and voluntary movements (especially balance and coordination). Side effects of a cerebellar stroke may include ataxia, balance issues, sensory issues, among others.
7. Thalamic Stroke
A thalamic stroke is the 3rd type of subcortical stroke. As with all subcortical strokes, they are often smaller in size.
One of the biggest side effects of a thalamic stroke is sensory issues because the thalamus relays 98% of all sensory input. Numbness and sensory issues are extremely common after a thalamic stroke. Central post stroke pain, a chronic type of pain, is also common after a thalamic stroke.
8. Basal Ganglia Stroke
The basal ganglia are most associated with emotion, voluntary muscle control, cognitive function, and memory. Therefore, basal ganglia strokes (the 4th type of subcortical stroke) often result in emotional blunting, post-stroke depression, motor impairments, among other side effects.
9. Internal Capsule Stroke
The internal capsule is another region that lies deep within the brain. It plays a large role in movement. Therefore, motor impairments are the most common side effect of an internal capsule stroke. If it’s the only side effect, then this type of stroke is also known as a pure motor stroke.
Left Hemisphere vs Right Hemisphere Stroke
Along with different lobes and structures, the brain is also divided into two halves, called hemispheres.
Aside from the different areas of the brain that can be affected by stroke, it’s also helpful to look at difference between the two hemispheres.
Generally speaking, the left hemisphere controls language and logical reasoning; while the right hemisphere is believed to control creativity and object recognition. This is why language difficulties after stroke are often associated with left hemisphere strokes.
Furthermore, each hemisphere controls movement on the opposite side of the body. Usually, a left hemisphere stroke will cause motor impairments on the right side of the body; while a right hemisphere stroke might impair the left side of the body.
When stroke impacts both hemispheres, it’s possible to sustain motor impairments on both sides of the body.
The Location of the Stroke Impacts Recovery
If you are a stroke survivor, it’s important to talk to your neurologist. Ask him/her about the location of your stroke, as it has a big impact on the side effects sustained.
Once you understand the location and side effects, rehabilitation can proceed with more efficiency.
The stroke recovery process is unique to each individual because every stroke is different. The most important thing to do is never give up hope.
Keep pursuing rehabilitation so that you can get as close to a full recovery from stroke as possible.