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Nat Neurosci. 2002 Jul;5(7):695-9.

Degree of language lateralization determines susceptibility to unilateral brain lesions.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, University of Münster, Albert-Schweitzer-Strabetae 33, D-48129 Münster, Germany.


Language is considered a function of either the left or, in exceptional cases, the right side of the brain. Functional imaging studies show, however, that in the general population a graded continuum from left hemispheric to right hemispheric language lateralization exists. To determine the functional relevance of lateralization differences, we suppressed language regions using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in healthy human subjects who differed in lateralization of language-related brain activation. Language disruption correlated with both the degree and side of lateralization. Subjects with weak lateralization (more bilaterality) were less affected by either left- or right-side TMS than were subjects with strong lateralization to one hemisphere. Thus in some people, language processing seems to be distributed evenly between the hemispheres, allowing for ready compensation after a unilateral lesion.

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