The frontal lobe, also known as the prefrontal cortex, is a crucial part of the brain even though fairly little is known about it. Researchers came to believe this as the center of human intelligence. Besides, this plays an important role in functions such as speech and movement.

What Researchers Know About The Frontal Lobe

Lateral View and Midsagittal View of Brain lobes with main sulci and boundaries

Image: CC by A-SA 3.0, Sebastian023, via Wikipedia Commons

Scientists study different areas of the cerebral cortex thanks to MRI scans. This technology makes it possible to observe and document activity in specific areas of the brain.  Also, a subject performs a task or experiences an emotion.

These scans showed that the frontal lobe of the brain gets active all the time. Different areas remain engaged depending on what the subject does or feels. But, it seems that something happens in this part of the brain at all times.

The Discovery Of The Prefrontal Cortex

Medial view of Prefrontal cortex (left) of the Brain

Image: CC by A-SA 2.1 Japan, Database Center for Life Science(DBCLS), via Wikipedia Commons

The importance of the prefrontal lobe happened to be first observed in the mid-1800s. A railroad worker by the name of Phineas Gage sustained a serious injury to the head. This happened during which the frontal lobe got damaged.

Gage died a few years after the incident. But, his friends and family reported that his personality changed. He went from being a hard-working and honest man to a lazy and even rude person.

Physician Paul Pierre Broca encountered a patient in a similar situation in France during the same time period. Broca’s patient meant unable to express himself properly. After the patient’s death, an autopsy revealed that a lesion caused what now known as Broca’s area to disappear.

Accordingly, the scientists happen to be aware of the crucial role of the frontal lobe. Probably, since the mid-1800s, this part of the brain happens still not fully understood.

In fact, recent research changed the way we approach the development of the frontal lobe of the brain in the context of evolution.

What We Know About The Frontal Lobe Is Changing

Primary direction of corticolimbic traffic and Frontal Lobe Changes

Image: CC by A-SA 3.0, Tops M, Boksem MAS, Luu P and Tucker DM, via Wikipedia Commons

The prefrontal lobe is often associated with human intelligence. Because this is where some crucial functions happen. Also, this comes as a fairly recent area in terms of evolution. Other sections of the brain developed first.

Researchers believed the rapid development of a large frontal lobe set humans apart from primates. However, recent research suggests that primates possess a larger frontal lobe compared to the human brain.

The Symptoms

Although, more research gets needed to understand the role of the frontal lobe. Scientists associate this section of the brain with a wide range of crucial functions.  Mostly, through symptoms that appeared after lesions to the front of the brain. Here exist some of these symptoms:

  • Difficulties with interpreting a situation.
  • Lower performances in IQ tests.
  • Lack of spontaneous facial expressions.
  • Changes in orientation in space.
  • The changes in sexual behaviors and reduced sexual interest.
  • Subjects speaking too much or speaking very rarely.
  • Changes in the subject’s attitude towards taking risks.
  • Tendencies to not comply with rules.

The Different Lobes Of The Brain

Principal lobes of the cerebrum viewed laterally

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The human brain happens to be divided into four distinct lobes. Each lobe gets associated with different functions and motor skills. We bring you the different lobes of the brain and their main functions:

Frontal Lobe

It includes the front and part of the top of the brain. This remains the area responsible for motor skills, reasoning, language, and decision-making.

Parietal Lobe

Consequently, this exists in the middle part of the brain for processing and interprets sensations.

The Temporal Lobe

Accordingly, this occurs at the bottom section of the brain where what we hear remains processed. Also, the hippocampus, the brain structure that processes memories, located in the temporal lobe.

The occipital lobe

This remains in the area at the back of the brain where what it gets interpreted.

Differences Between The Left And Right Frontal Cortex

 Left And Right Frontal Cortex with the Major brain areas involved in action selection

Image: CC by A 2.0, Tamas Madl mail, Bernard J. Baars, Stan Franklin, via Wikipedia Commons

The role of the frontal lobe varies from one side to the other. The right cortex comes associated with the left side of the human body. And, the left cortex links the right side of the body.

There exist other distinctions between the left and right prefrontal cortex. The right side remains linked to the rhythm of your speech. Also, this tells you which direction a sound is coming from.

Subsequently, the left side of the frontal cortex transpires actively when you experience a positive emotion. Also, while the right side gets linked to experiencing negative emotions.

Decision-Making And Other Executive Functions

The main role of the frontal lobe is to help you make decisions. This area of the brain also helps you plan for the future.

Did you know that the frontal lobe isn’t fully developed until your mid-20s? A teenager is more likely to act on their emotions because the decisions they make will be strongly influenced by the amygdala, the brain structure responsible for emotions.

On the other hand, an adult’s frontal lobe regulates the signals sent by the amygdala. This makes a decision based on facts and logic rather than on raw emotions.

Inhibitions And Social interactions

The limbic system happens to be one of the brain structures where emotions originate. However, the frontal lobe filters these signals.

This frontal lobe function seems crucial in social settings. Moreover, it results in inhibitions allowing us to act in a socially-appropriate manner rather than letting emotions determine what we do or say.

Your Memory and Communication

Further, the frontal lobe also filters long-term memories. This makes us remember them and process in a more socially acceptable manner. Now, your frontal lobe assimilates a memory. Consequently, you draw on it when you encounter a similar social situation in the future.

This part of the brain transpires empathy. Experiencing empathy helps us relate to others and understand their emotions and experiences. Human interactions occur impossible without this mechanism.

Broca’s Area

Broca’s Area Red Spot Located in the Brain

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Broca’s area remains a relatively small brain structure found in the third frontal convolution. This area allows you to understand language and produce speech at a fluent level.

If this structure isn’t functioning properly, you get a hard time producing grammatically-correct sentences or with expressing what you want to say.

Scientists also found that this area gets active when a subject moves their hands. Broca’s area plays a part in planning movements. This limits another person’s movements to interpreting the movements observed.

The Primary Motor Cortex

Primary motor cortex Red Section in the Brain Brodmann areas 4

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There comes another crucial brain structure found in the frontal lobe. The precentral gyrus or primary motor cortex controls the movements.

Accordingly, this area remains located at the top of the brain. Also, located just before the central sulcus that separates the frontal lobe from the parietal lobe. We call this sometimes as the motor strip rather than the primary motor cortex.

The size of the motor strip dedicated to controlling movements in each body part depends on how precise movements need to be. For instance, there comprise large areas dedicated to your tongue, lips, and pharynx.

Even though these body parts are small, they require very precise control for producing exact sounds.

Role Of Dopamine

Dopamine Pathways in the brain

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One of the most important roles of the frontal lobe is to help with attention, focus, and motivation. Remember the story of Phineas Gage. Although, we imply him as a hard-working man. Gage became lazy and rude after his injury.

This happens because most of the brain’s dopamine receptors stand located in the frontal lobe. Dopamine acts as a neurotransmitter produced in different areas of the brain. Then, released by the hypothalamus.

Functions

The function of dopamine keeps the brain alert and focused. It also activates the reward pathway, which triggers positive feelings. The reward pathway plays a very important role in motivation.

So, you want to repeat the action that activates this pathway? A high level of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex remains associated with being motivated to achieve your goals, optimal motor functions, and feelings of well-being.

You get more likely to retain new information. Otherwise, wants to set new with more challenging goals.

Memory

Here, the other brain structures like the hippocampus play a more important role in how the brain remembers things. Thus, the frontal lobe occurs also connected to memory.

The front of the brain processes short-term memories. It plays a part in how information is remembered in the long-term. Dopamine comes essentially from new short-term memories formed.

This seems easier to remember information when learning is interesting and rewarded.

Personality

The frontal lobe affects your personality, even though this function does not well understand by scientists yet. The link between this area and one’s personality demonstrates.

It happens via the observation of significant changes in patients who sustained an injury to the front of the brain.

Scientists observed that some patients became aggressive, egocentric, emphatic, or even displayed signs of paranoia. This occurs after the damage to the frontal lobe.

Damages to the left front lobe often result in anxiety. On the other hand, the lesions on the right side usually lead to apathy.

Your Frontal Lobe and the Body

It gets possible that the combined effect of the frontal lobe on regulating emotions from the limbic system and on bodily functions. Likely, the motivation makes up a significant aspect of one’s personality.

The frontal lobe acts as a fascinating part of the human brain. Researchers happen as a familiar individual structure like Broca’s area or the primary motor cortex. 

These demonstrated the link between the frontal lobe and important function like motivation, inhibitions, and memories. But, more research seems needed to understand the prefrontal cortex fully.

 

Featured Image: CC by A-SA 3.0, Sebastian023, via Wikipedia Commons

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