Language dominance in the right hemisphere is rare. Therefore, the organization of essential language sites in the dominant right hemisphere is unclear, especially compared with cases involving the more prevalent left dominant hemisphere.
The authors reviewed the medical records of 15 patients who underwent awake craniotomy for tumor or epilepsy surgery and speech mapping of right hemisphere perisylvian language areas at the University of California, San Francisco. All patients were determined to have either complete right-sided or bilateral language dominance by preoperative Wada testing.
All patients but one were left-handed. Of more than 331 total stimulation sites, 27 total sites were identified as essential for language function (14 sites for speech arrest/anarthria; 12 for anomia; and 1 for alexia). While significant interindividual variability was observed, the general pattern of language organization was similar to classic descriptions of frontal language production and posterior temporal language integration for the left hemisphere. Speech arrest sites were clustered in the ventral precentral gyrus and pars opercularis. Anomia sites were more widely distributed, but were focused in the posterior superior and middle temporal gyri as well as the inferior parietal gyrus. One alexia site was found over the superior temporal gyrus. Face sensory and motor cortical sites were also identified along the ventral sensorimotor strip. The prevalence and specificity of essential language sites were greater in unilateral right hemisphere–dominant patients, compared with those with bilateral dominance by Wada testing.
The authors' results suggest that the organization of language in right hemisphere dominance mirrors that of left hemisphere dominance. Awake speech mapping is a safe and reliable surgical adjunct in these rare clinical cases and should be done in the setting of right hemisphere dominance to avoid preventable postoperative aphasia.