The Brain's Frontal Lobe

brain anatomy
Photo © A.D.A.M.

Definition: 

The brain has three cerebral hemispheres, or sections: the forebrain, the midbrain, and the hindbrain. Each of these 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 brainstem, 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. Each hemisphere is divided into sections known as the frontal lobes.

Function of the Frontal Lobe

The left frontal lobe controls ability for language, rational and logical thinking, science and math and ability to solve problems. The right frontal lobe controls 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. Other causes of injury to the frontal lobe may include the following:

Symptoms of Frontal Lobe Damage

Because of its location, the frontal lobe is vulnerable to injury. Symptoms of damage to the frontal lobe can vary and may result in one or more of the following:

  • Inability to problem solve
  • Reduced creativity
  • Reduced sexual interest or peculiar sexual habits
  • Impaired judgment
  • Reduced sense of taste or smell
  • Depression
  • Changes in behavior
  • Distractedness

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 lobes become atrophied and shrink. Over time, the damage causes difficulty in thinking, controlling emotions, inability to organize, trouble communicating and unusual behavior.

Diagnosis of Frontal Lobe Damage

To assess the damage to the frontal lobe, the patient will need a complete neurospsychological evaluation. Testing will involve speech, motor skills, social behavior, spontaneity, impulse control, memory, problem solving, and language.

Treatment of Frontal Lobe Damage

Frontal lobe damage may be permanent yet treatment and rehabilitation can help the patient achieve  degrees 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.

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