Roles of the Temporal & Occipital Lobe

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Your brain is a complex anatomical structure that takes in sensory messages—sounds, textures, sights, tastes, smells—then interprets them and directs your bod or mind to react in some way. The brain is divided into several structures called lobes, each of which manages specific sensory input, receiving information, processing it and determining what to do about it. Two of these structures are the temporal lobe and the occipital lobe. Damage to these lobes can have dramatic effects on your ability to function.

Brain Function

Your brain is divided into two hemispheres—right and left—then further divided into four sections, called lobes: the frontal lobe, the parietal lobe, the temporal lobe, and the occipital lobe. The frontal lobe, which is not mature until about the age of 24, manages your higher brain functions—planning, foresight, judgment, and memory. The parietal lobe determines motor control, or how you initiate or inhibit movement, as well as your sense of touch and language. The temporal lobe handles your sense of hearing, while your occipital lobe facilitates vision. Brain functions are not quite as separate as this implies. Some processes, like memory, depend on each part of your brain to some degree. These four major lobes, along with your cerebellum and brain stem, work in conjunction with each other to keep your body and mind running smoothly.

Temporal Lobe

Your temporal lobe manages several functions. Its primary duty is to process the sounds that come into your brain through your ears into something meaningful. But your temporal lobe also plays a part in memory functions, especially auditory memory. When you sing a song, your temporal lobe is assisting you to remember the melody. In addition, the temporal lobe processes language and visual perceptions. It helps you to know which category a word or image belongs in. For example, if you hear the word “cow” you know it belongs in the category “animal.” Researchers discover information about how the temporal lobe works by studying people with damage to that area of the brain.

Temporal Lobe Damage

Damage to your temporal lobe, whether through injury or disease, can have devastating effects. The things people say to you may be incomprehensible. You may not be able to distinguish one sound from another. Your long-term memory may be negatively affected, and you may experience personality changes, often heightened aggression, irritability and sexual activity. If the left side of your temporal lobe is damaged, you might not be able to understand what someone is saying to you or remember what words mean. If the right side is damaged, you might lose your ability to recall music or recognize a familiar face. Right-side damage may also cause you to talk incessantly.

Occipital Lobe

Your occipital lobe, located in the back of your head, manages your vision. It receives an upside-down image directly from your retinas, interprets this image, and then passes this input on to the parietal lobe and frontal lobe for processing into meaningful information. Your occipital lobe also helps you with determining the differences in shapes and colors. Damage to your occipital lobe can cause diminished, disrupted or destroyed vision.

Occipital Lobe Damage

If your occipital lobe is damaged, vision will be affected in some way. You may experience “cortical blindness” which is the inability for the brain to recognize that the eyes, which are functioning normally, have seen anything at all. This damage can be specific to the opposite side of the head, for example, damage to the right side of the occipital lobe can cause blindness to the information being seen by the left eye and vice versa. If the front part of your occipital lobe is damaged, you may not be able to recognize what you are looking at though you can see it perfectly well.

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