Cortical stimulation mapping and Wada results demonstrate a normal variant of right hemisphere language organization


Address correspondence to Daniel L. Drane, Department of Neurology, Emory University School of Medicine, Woodruff Medical Research Building, 101 Woodruff Circle, Suite 6111, Mailstop 1930-001-1AN, Atlanta, GA 30329, U.S.A. E-mail:


Purpose:  Exclusive right hemisphere language lateralization is rarely observed in the Wada angiography results of epilepsy surgery patients. Cortical stimulation mapping (CSM) is infrequently performed in such patients, as most undergo nondominant left hemisphere resections, which are presumed not to pose any risk to language. Early language reorganization is typically assumed in such individuals, taking left hemisphere epileptiform activity as confirmation of change resulting from a pathologic process. We present data from CSM and Wada studies demonstrating that right hemisphere language occurs in the absence of left hemisphere pathology, suggesting it can exist as a normal, but rare variant, in some individuals. Furthermore, these data confirm the Wada test findings of atypical dominance.

Methods:  Cortical stimulation mapping data were examined for all right hemisphere surgical patients with right hemisphere speech at our center between 1974 and 2006. Of 1,209 interpretable Wada procedures, 89 patients (7.4%) had exclusive right hemisphere speech, and 21 (1.7%) of these patients underwent surgery involving the right hemisphere. Language site location was determined by examining intraoperative photographs, and site distribution was statistically compared to published findings from left hemisphere language dominant patients.

Key Findings:  Language cortex was identified in the right hemisphere during CSM for all patients with available data. All sites could be classified in superior or middle temporal gyri, inferior parietal lobe, or inferior frontal gyrus, all of which were common zones where language was identified in the left hemisphere dominant comparison sample.

Significance:  Results suggest that the Wada procedure is a valid measure for identifying right hemisphere language processing without any false lateralization found in the patients mapped with CSM (i.e., a positive Wada is 100% sensitive for finding right hemisphere language sites), and that the distribution of language sites is consistent across right hemisphere and left hemisphere language dominant patients, supporting the theory that right hemisphere language can occur as a normal variant of language lateralization.