If you have sustained right hemisphere brain damage, you’re in the right place. We’re here to shed some light on the brain injury recovery process.
The brain is one of the most complex organs in the body. A traumatic injury to any area of the brain, including the right hemisphere, can result in a variety of side effects.
To help you better understand and cope with right hemisphere brain damage, we’ve put together a list of possible side effects and their treatment methods.
Before we dig into this ultimate guide to right hemisphere TBI recovery, let’s start with a quick overview of the brain’s right hemiphere.
Understanding Right Hemisphere Brain Damage
To understand how a right hemisphere 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 of the right hemisphere 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.
How to Recover from Right Side Brain Injury
Treating right side brain injuries, like all TBIs, takes a lot of dedication and work. But if you persevere with your therapy, it is possible to regain the abilities you’ve lost — even years after injury.
This is possible 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 activate yourself. All you need to trigger neuroplasticity is massed practice, or high repetition of a specific task.
In response to an action, your brain creates and strengthens 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. This means that the more you practice an action, the easier it will become.
Almost all treatments for the effects of right hemisphere brain damage emphasize massed practice. Neuroplasticity is at the heart of TBI recovery.
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 hemisphere brain damage 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.
This cognitive difficulty is a common issue after a right side brain injury.
2. Memory and Orientation Problems
Right hemisphere brain damage can also lead to problems remembering new and old information; as well as difficulties recalling the date, time or place.
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 in the right hemisphere often leads to muscle weakness on the 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, a TBI patient can still recognize their husband or wife’s voice and remember who they are.
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.
7. Insight and Organization Problems
Right hemisphere brain damage 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
Generally the left side of the brain is in charge of logic and reason. However, 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.
9. Problems with Musicality of Speech (Monotone Voice)
The right hemisphere 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.
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.
11. Denial Syndrome (Anosognosia)
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. This 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.
Rehabilitation Methods for Right Hemisphere Brain Injury Recovery
The road to recovery after a brain injury is often a long one. Fortunately, you should have a team of medical professionals helping you every step of the way.
Here are some common rehabilitation methods used to treat right hemisphere brain injury:
- Rehab exercises (physical therapy). 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 via neuroplasticity.
- Cognitive exercises. Practicing memory games and other cognitive exercises for TBI patients can help you improve and regain your cognitive abilities.
- Speech therapy. To treat speech problems or issues with musicality of speech, see a licensed Speech Language Pathologist (SLP). These specialists can assess your unique problem areas and cater a rehabilitation program for you. Some speech apps, like the CT Speech & Cognitive Therapy App can also help.
- Naming therapy. Treatment for prosopagnosia (difficulty with facial recognition) will usually involve naming therapy to help retrain your brain and develop recognition and recall skills. An SLP can help with this.
- Psychotherapy. A professional neuropsychologist can help treat emotional disturbances after TBI like pseudobulbar affect or flat affect.
- Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) can help some patients overcome anosognosia. It works by helping them alter their self-image to accept that they have a condition that requires treatment.
Everyone will recover from brain injury differently because every injury is different. Your rehabilitation team will help you cater a recovery program that’s right for you.
How to Care for Someone with Right Hemisphere Brain Damage
Before we wrap up, 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.
Right hemisphere damage can affect executive functioning and planning skills, so it can be helpful to assist your loved one with establishing a daily routine they can follow. You’ll want to break down directions into small, easy-to-follow steps.
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 hemisphere brain injury.