I am finishing this series of Breaking Down the Brain with an exploration of the Frontal Lobes. The frontal lobes are considered our emotional control center and home to our personality. There is no other part of the brain where lesions can cause such a wide variety of symptoms (Kolb & Wishaw, 1990).
The frontal lobes regulate motor function, problem solving, spontaneity, memory, language, initiation, judgement, impulse control, and social and sexual behavior. The frontal lobes are extremely vulnerable to injury due to their location at the front of the cranium. MRI studies show that the frontal area is the most common region of injury following mild to moderate traumatic brain injury (Levin et al., 1987).
Flat affect, loss of facial expression, is associated with frontal lobe damage.
Another area often associated with frontal damage is that of behavioral spontaneity. This was the case with the famous case of Phineas Gage. In 1848,a twenty-five-year-old railroad construction foreman Phineas Gage was packing powder and sand into a hole in rock, and the powder detonated. A 13-pound iron rod was driven through Gage’s cheek, out of the top of his head to land 30-some yards behind him. One of the more amazing anecdotes of this event was that Gage was brought to town–conscious–and he sat on his porch relating the details of the accident to his landlord while a doctor was summoned from the next town. Although he suffered an infection soon after, and his family prepared a coffin for him, he soon recovered, even though the rod damaged one or both of his brain’s frontal lobes.
The frontal lobes are involved in several functions of the body including:
- Motor Functions
- Higher Order Functions
- Impulse Control
This is the most often damaged part of the brain when concussed in a motor vehicle crash, fall or assault. The frontal lobes sit right on top of the cranium’s bony structure near the eye sockets. Therefore, when concussed, the brain slides along those bony structures and gets damaged.
You can read more about Phineas Gage and the frontal lobes in my previous posts: