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The Function of the Frontal Lobe

Updated: Aug 28, 2022

Who are we? We are the product of 4 lobes; the frontal lobe, temporal lobe, parietal lobe and occipital lobe. The frontal lobe takes up around 2/3 of our brain, which is huge considering that there are 4 lobes of the brain. The frontal lobe is arguably the most likely lobe to be damaged. Putting it into context, the front of the head is the first area to get hit when boxing, bashed when playing rugby and banged when in an accident. People who have damaged their frontal lobe require days, weeks, months and sometimes years of rehabilitation to get back to a quality life. More people than we think suffer from frontal lobe damage, diagnosed and undiagnosed. Spreading awareness and knowledge about the frontal lobe increases these people's support network to help them come to terms with their injury.

The frontal lobe plays a part in nearly everything we do cognitively and physically. Physically, the frontal lobe is unarguably involved in all of our motor functioning. Cognitively, research has suggested many different functions of the frontal lobe. Dr Stuss and Dr Benson (1984) suggested that after observing individuals with frontal lobe damage the areas affected were; attention, awareness, language, memory, general cognition and perception. Dr Stuss went further in 1999 and suggested that the frontal lobe is also responsible for personality development, self-awareness and executive functioning. When looking into human decision-making, Collins and Koechlin (2012) supported previous findings that the frontal lobe is crucial for executive functioning.

Celine Chayer and Morris Freedman reviewed research into the functions of the frontal lobe in their 2001 paper 'Frontal Lobe Functions'. They summarised from many different research papers that the frontal lobe is involved in attention, executive functioning, memory, language, mood and personality development. It seems research consistently suggests, executive functioning, language, personality, attention and memory are functions of the frontal lobe. So what does damage to the frontal lobe look like in everyday life?

I am sure with most of the suggested functions, you could imagine what deficits in them look like, for example memory. Considering memory at a deeper level, there are many types of memory. However generically, someone who has problems with memory may forget things, be slower with processing or may need constant prompts with everyday tasks. Problems with language may involve speed of speech, clearness of speech or sometimes incorrect use of words. Deficits with attention poses a huge problem in everyday life. We need to pay attention to things throughout the day and bring certain things into our conscious awareness. When someone has problems attending to their environment, they may need extra support to understand situations. For example, someone with an attention-deficit may need extra prompting to keep track of a task or they may need quicker, shorter sentences in order for them to understand a conversation.

As a result of various cognitive functions associated with the frontal lobe, executive functioning and someone's personality may be affected after frontal lobe damage. This is because executive functioning and personality are a build-up of a huge variety of cognitive functions. Executive functioning relies on cognitive skills such as memory, processing, perception and more in order to prioritise and plan. Our personality also involves many different areas of the frontal lobe. Most commonly, a difference in personality is the hardest thing for families and caregivers when someone has suffered from frontal lobe damage, for obvious reasons. I have seen first-hand how personality is affected from the brain being damaged and it is heart-breaking.

In addition, just like any part of our body, our brains are always getting older. The degeneration of the brain is called 'atrophy'. We can do things in our lifetime that make atrophy speed up or slow down. Obviously I would recommend doing anything that decreases the rate in which your brain degenerates, one way, funnily enough, is by exercising. Yuki et al,. (2012), concluded after their study that low levels of physical activity is a significant predictor of frontal lobe atrophy. They then went onto say, 'promoting participation in physical activities may be beneficial in attenuating age-related frontal lobe atrophy and in preventing dementia'.

Your brain is the centre of who you are. Your body is a onesie for your brain to operate. So treat it with respect and EXERCISE!


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