The mechanism of functional recovery in the right hemisphere (RH) stroke patients when attempting to comprehend a proverb has not been identified. We previously reported that there is bilateral hemisphere involvement during proverb comprehension in the normal population. 

However, the underlying mechanisms of proverb comprehension following a right middle cerebral artery (MCA) infarction have not yet been fully elucidated. The researchers compared the brain regions activated by literal sentences and by opaque or transparent proverbs in right MCA infarction patients using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Experimental stimuli included 18 opaque proverbs, 18 transparent proverbs, and 18 literal sentences that were presented pseudorandomly in 1 of 3 predesigned sequences.

Fifteen normal adults and 17 right MCA infarction patients participated in this study. The areas of the brain in the stroke patients involved in understanding a proverb compared with a literal sentence included the right middle frontal gyrus (MFG) and frontal pole, right anterior cingulate gyrus/paracingulate gyrus and left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), middle temporal gyrus (MTG), precuneus, and supramarginal gyrus (SMG).

Stroke patients

When the proverbs were presented to these stroke patients in the comprehension tests, the left supramarginal, postcentral gyrus, and right paracingulate gyrus were activated for the opaque proverbs compared to the transparent proverbs.

These findings suggest that the functional recovery of language in stroke patients can be explained by perilesional activation, which is thought to arise from the regulation of the excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitter system, and by homotopic area activation which has been characterized by decreased transcallosal inhibition and astrocyte involvement.

However, the activation pattern in RH stroke patients who are attempting to understand a proverb has not been identified, nor whether this differs from the normal population.

In a recent study of the role of the right hemisphere in semantic control, there was no significant difference found between RH?damaged patients and normal subjects when they performed a standard battery of semantic tasks including a synonym judgment task. This suggests that either the RH is not strongly associated with semantic tasks or that a compensatory mechanism exists in another part of the brain.