Previous studies have suggested that recovery or compensation of language function after a lesion in the left hemisphere may depend on mechanisms in the right hemisphere. However, a direct relationship between performance and right hemisphere activity has not been established. Here, we show that patients with left frontal lesions and partially recovered aphasia learn, at a normal rate, a novel word retrieval task that requires the damaged cortex. Verbal learning is accompanied by specific response decrements in right frontal and right occipital cortex, strongly supporting the compensatory role of the right hemisphere. Furthermore, responses in left occipital cortex are abnormal and not modulated by practice. These findings indicate that frontal cortex is a source of top-down signals during learning.