chapter  23
20 Pages

The Nature and Implications of Right Hemisphere Language Disorders: Issues in Search of Answers: Connie A. Tompkins, Wiltrud Fassbinder, Margaret T. Lehman-Blake and Annette Baumgaertner

Historically the study of neurologically based adult language disorders has focused on aphasia, which in most individuals is a consequence of damage to the language-dominant left cerebral hemisphere. However, language impairments associated with right hemisphere damage (RHD) have received increasing attention of late. On the rehabilitation front, it has become clear that adults with left hemisphere damage and aphasia are not the only ones whose communication disorders can affect their daily function, social interaction, and quality of life. As a result, one important goal of the quest to understand RHD language disorders is to derive implications for diagnosis, prognosis, and clinical intervention. From a more theoretical perspective, language impairments in adults with RHD have been studied as a window on the nature of language representation and processing in the so-called minor hemisphere. The research on RHD converges with other investigations, including those of individuals with intact (Beeman & Chiarello, 1998) and surgically disconnected right hemispheres (Baynes & Eliassen, 1998; Zaidel, 1998) and of people who are recovering from aphasia (Cappa, 1998; Kinsbourne, 1998) to indicate that the right hemisphere potential for language processing is far from minor.