Causes of Frontal Lobe Damage and Effects on Brain Functions

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The brain has 4 lobes on each side. They are the frontal lobe, the temporal lobe, the parietal lobe and the occipital lobe. These regions carry out specific functions and any illness that damages an area of the brain results in impairment of the functions carried out by that region of the brain.

Functions of the Frontal Lobe

The frontal lobe is a relatively large lobe of the brain, extending from the front of the brain approximately half way towards the back of the brain.

It is responsible for a variety of physical and cognitive (thinking) functions.

One of the most important functions of the frontal lobe includes decision making, self-control, attention, emotional regulation, high-level thinking and problem-solving.

There are some differences between the right and left frontal lobes. The back of the frontal lobe is a region called the motor strip, which controls and directs the body's voluntary (purposeful) physical movements. The left motor strip controls movement of the right side of the body, while the right motor strip controls movements of the left side of the body.

In addition, there are also functions that are predominantly controlled by the left frontal lobe or the right frontal lobe. The left frontal lobe is involved in language, rational and logical thinking, science and math and ability to solve problems. The right frontal lobe is involved with creativity, imagination, intuition, curiosity, musical and artistic ability.

Damage to the frontal lobe may impair attention span, motivation, organizational ability. and judgment. Patients with frontal lobe damage may also exhibit impulsive or risky behavior.

Causes of Frontal Lobe Damage

Damage to the frontal lobe is most commonly caused by strokes and transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), also known as mini-strokes.

This happens when blood flow through one of the blood vessels that provides blood to an area of the frontal lobe becomes interrupted or bleeds.

Other causes of damage or injury to the frontal lobe may include the following:

Symptoms of Frontal Lobe Damage

Symptoms of damage to the frontal lobe can vary because there are so many functions carried out by the frontal lobes. These symptoms may include one or more of the following:

  • Weakness on one side of the body or one side of the face
  • Falling
  • Inability to problem solve
  • Reduced creativity
  • Impaired judgment
  • Reduced sense of taste or smell
  • Depression
  • Changes in behavior
  • Low attention span, easily distracted
  • Reduced sexual interest or peculiar sexual habits

Damage to the frontal and temporal lobes causes forms of dementia and frontotemporal disorders. As neurons in the frontal and temporal lobes become damaged, the brain cells become atrophied (shrink.) Over time, the damage causes difficulty in thinking, controlling emotions, inability to organize, trouble communicating and unusual behavior.

Diagnosis of Frontal Lobe Damage

When a stroke causes frontal lobe damage, usually a Brain CT or a Brain MRI is the best test to diagnose a frontal lobe stroke.

However, when there is another cause, such as dementia or a concussion, then a brain imaging test may not reveal frontal lobe damage. To assess the damage to the frontal lobe, you might need a complete neuropsychological evaluation. Testing will involve speech, motor skills, social behavior, spontaneity, impulse control, memory, problem-solving, and language.

Treatment of Frontal Lobe Damage

Treatment and rehabilitation for frontal lobe damage can help you achieve improvement of function.

Rehabilitation will include strengthening of existing skills and compensating for skills that have been lost. Focus may be placed on regulating emotions and curbing impulsive behavior.

The Hemispheres of the Brain

The brain has two hemispheres, the left and the right. Yet, the frontal lobe is sometimes referred to as a hemisphere, which can be confusing.

This confusing terminology stems from the fact that the early brain developed as three cerebral hemispheres, or sections, prior to birth: the forebrain, the midbrain, and the hindbrain. Each of these developing sections has specific functions.

The function of the hindbrain is to control respiration and heart rate. The midbrain, located in the uppermost part of the brain stem, controls reflex actions such as eye movement and other voluntary movements. The forebrain, the largest and most highly developed part of the brain, controls emotional perceptions and responses, involuntary movements, sleep patterns, memory and organizational ability. The forebrain is further divided into two halves, or hemispheres, which are located directly behind the forehead.

A Word From Verywell

Any type of brain damage can certainly cause a great deal of stress. Whether you or a loved one has experienced damage to the frontal lobe, you should be aware that people can experience some degree of recovery, depending on the cause of damage.

Illnesses such as dementia and Parkinson's Disease generally worsen over time, and medication can help slow the progression, but cannot reverse the disease.

Other causes of frontal lobe damage, such as stroke, concussion, and infection, should stabilize and may even improve over time.

Sources:

Neural Correlates for Apathy: Frontal-Prefrontal and Parietal Cortical- Subcortical Circuits, Moretti R, Signori R, Front Aging Neurosci. 2016 Dec 9;8:289

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