When scientists first began to ascribe functions to specific structures of the brain, patterns were noticed in large portions of the cerebral cortex. Based on these functional patterns, the cerebrum was broken up into 4 lobes of functional activity: Frontal, Temporal, Parietal, and Occipital. Today we are going to examine the important functions carried out in each of these 4 lobes!
The frontal lobe can be thought of as the higher level control center of your brain. It is located at the front of your brain (right behind your eyes and forehead). It is heavily involved in regulating emotion, language, personality, executive functioning, motor functioning, attention, and higher level cognition (Queensland Brain Institute, 2016; Stuss & Knight, 2013). Dysfunction of this lobe of your brain is often seen in dementia, Parkinson’s, depression, addiction, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (Hoffmann, 2013; Miller & Cummings, 2018).
The parietal lobe is often thought of as the sensory integration portion of your brain. It is located right behind the frontal lobe and encompasses the top middle section of your brain. This area is involved in touch, pain, and temperature sensation (Queensland Brain Institute, 2016; University of Central Florida, 2019). Dysfunction of the parietal lobe is associated with losses of sensation, difficulty distinguishing between left and right, and apraxia (difficulty in performing skilled motor movements) (Huang, 2020).
The temporal lobe is mainly in charge of hearing and memory. It can be found behind your temples on the sides of your brain. The temporal lobe shows significant involvement in tasks that require auditory processing, memory, facial recognition, and understanding language (Queensland Brain Institute, 2016; University of Central Florida, 2019). Dysfunctional circuitry in the temporal lobe can be seen in dementia, amnesia, schizophrenia, and some forms of deafness (Arnold, 1997; Huang, 2020).
Last, but certainly not least, we have the occipital lobe. This portion of your brain is located at the back of your head, and integrates visual information from your eyes. It is responsible for turning visual information made up of electromagnetic waves into the images that you see each and every day. Dysfunction of the occipital lobe is seen in blindness and schizophrenia (Huang, 2020; Tohid et al., 2015).
Understanding the overarching functions of these lobes is helpful in understanding the etiology behind many diseases of the brain. That being said, it is important to remember that these are all gross oversimplifications. Most things that we think and do require extensive activation of many portions of your brain. For example, the formation and recall of memory requires extensive inputs from all 4 lobes! So remember, breaking the brain down into lobes can be a helpful heuristic, but it is not the be all end all of brain function.