Where is the Frontal Lobe? What Are Their Duties?

The frontal lobe is one of the four lobes that make up the cerebral cortex . Others are the parietal, temporal and occipital lobes. The frontal lobe, located behind the forehead, is the slowest maturing part of the brain, continuing its development into the mid-twenties. For this reason, it can be said that the frontal lobe is particularly sensitive in brain injuries in childhood and adolescence. In its damage, behavior and mental functions are affected.

This anterior portion of the cerebral cortex is associated with various higher-level cognitive functions. In animals such as dolphins and monkeys, which are considered more intelligent, they are larger than other mammals. One of the most striking features that distinguishes the human brain from other animals is the development of the frontal lobe. The mental capacity required by social interactions is thought to be the driving force in the development of the frontal lobe.

Functions of the Frontal Lobe

  • Coordination of voluntary movements such as walking, reaching for objects. The primary motor cortex is located in the frontal lobe.
  • Predicting the future consequences of actions taking place in the present. Therefore, it plays an important role in impulse control. It decides when and how much money to spend, what to eat, whether a behavior is socially appropriate.
  • To evaluate the similarities and differences between two things.
  • Formation and storage of long-term memories, especially emotional memories from the limbic system.
  • It has a critical role in understanding language, verbal memory and speech.
  • Emotional expression and regulation of emotions, understanding other people’s emotions. The ability to empathize may originate from the frontal lobe.
  • Character development. Functions of the frontal lobe such as memory, control of emotions, expression, impulse control provide a key role in the formation of personality. When it is damaged, sudden and big changes can occur in personality.
  • Reward control. Dopamine, a molecule associated with reward and motivation, is highly active in the frontal lobe. Here are dopamine sensitive neurons.
  • Regulation and focus of attention. Problems in the frontal lobe may be associated with attention deficit and hyperactivity.
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Some Important Structures Found in the Frontal Lobe

It can be analyzed in four subsections.

  • Medial frontal lobe: This region contains the cingulate gyrus, which is part of the limbic system . The superior frontal gyrus associated with self-awareness is also here.
  • Lateral frontal lobe: The middle and inferior (inferior) frontal gyrus are located. The inferior frontal gyrus is involved in language processes.
  • Polar region: Frontomarginal gyrus and transverse frontopolar gyri.
  • Orbital frontal lobe: It includes the anterior orbital gyrus, medial orbital gyrus, posterior orbital gyrus, and gyrus rectus. It is linked to the vagus nerve, which controls emotional and automatic reactions.

How Does It Affect the Body?

The frontal lobe is often thought of as the house of consciousness, but it cannot think and feel alone. No part of the brain can manage any function or organ alone without signals from the body and other areas of the nervous system. The frontal lobe also works with other brain areas to coordinate consciousness.

Like other regions of the brain, the frontal lobe is in contact with the limbic system. The limbic system governs primitive and automatic reactions. These reactions are shaped by feelings and experiences. Since the frontal lobe is the source of consciousness, the signals it gives to the limbic system are very important. For example, the emotional response to a traumatic event can permanently affect the limbic system. Memories recorded in the frontal lobe can strengthen limbic system responses over time.

The frontal lobe is affected by memories and experiences, as it is associated with higher-order functions. Social interaction, education and similar experiences can change the way this region works. Sensory stimuli also play a key role. Memories, previous experiences, knowledge about the world change actions to be taken.

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What Happens in Frontal Lobe Injury?

With aging, most people’s frontal lobe shrinkage (atrophy) can be seen. It has been calculated that after the age of 60, the volume shrinks by an average of 0.5-1% per year. This slow and regular shrinkage can lead to symptoms such as mild forgetfulness and difficulty in finding words, which are seen with aging. Rapid regression of the frontal lobe can cause dementia.

Since the frontal lobe is the last maturing part of the brain, it is sensitive to factors such as childhood abuse, insufficient environmental stimulation, drug abuse, and infection. These factors can permanently affect the development of the frontal lobe. In addition, since it is located in the front of the brain, it is sensitive to events such as trauma, traffic accidents, violent events and falls. Even a relatively minor trauma can cause frontal lobe damage.

The consequences of damage vary depending on the location of the damage, its severity, and when it was noticed and treatment started. In the elderly, the cerebral cortex is more sensitive as it has already shrunk somewhat. Children and young people are at risk because they have not completed their development. Treatment of frontal lobe damage requires both medical and psychological approaches. Being in a stimulating environment and aerobic exercises can support frontal lobe recovery.

Signs and symptoms of frontal lobe damage:

  • dementia
  • Nervousness, behavior, and personality changes
  • Disruption in moral judgments
  • Decreased ability to plan, attention
  • Loss of memory
  • decline in intelligence
  • Depression, anxiety symptoms
  • Difficulty understanding other people’s feelings
  • Decreased movement skills and spatial estimation skills
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