THE ROLE OF THE TEMPORAL LOBE
It’s in the temporal lobe that the brain begins to show its integrated control over the body’s functions—both conscious and unconscious. In studying evolution, the temporal lobe is thought to be one of the oldest areas of the brain. It is responsible for our ability to perceive auditory (hearing), olfactory (smell), gustatory (taste), and vestibular senses (balance and movement), it is also the seat of many other functions.
The temporal controls:
- All emotions (fear, love, hate, happiness, sexuality, etc)
- Memory storage
- Sleep cycles and time processing
- Hormone regulation
- Navigation of the environment
- Language processing
As you can see, many of the most essential functions of life are housed in the temporal lobes.
Looking at the brain from the side, it looks much like a boxing glove. If you could imagine this, the temporal lobe would be the thumb of the glove. It is surrounded on three sides by the other lobes of the brain (the occipital, parietal, and frontal lobes).
Since the temporal lobe is on the bottom of the brain, it sits on the base of our skull, which has both flat surfaces and very sharp ridges. This terrain of the brain makes the temporal lobe quite vulnerable to injury. For example, some traumatic brain injuries can particularly injure the temporal lobe due to the jostling and scraping against these flat and sharp surfaces.
Even though we are learning more about concussions and brain injuries, they still have several euphemisms, such as “getting your bell rung.” These phrases are actually more appropriate than you might think—the ringing in your ears is actually from damage to the part of your brain that senses and processes hearing. If you have experienced a blow to the head, you may recall a metallic taste in your mouth—once again, a consequence of injuring your temporal lobe.
Blacking out, or losing time from head injuries also stems from damage to the temporal lobe. In rare and life-threatening injuries, the brain can swell and the temporal lobe can even be forced through the opening at the base of the skull, requiring immediate surgery.
Unfortunately, it’s not only concussions that put temporal lobes in danger. They are also vulnerable to many developmental and degenerative disorders, including Autism, dyslexia, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. Frontal-Temporal Dementia (FTD), in particular, is distressing for sufferers and their loved ones because they lose their memory and their ability to control their emotions.
As we discussed in a previous post, the frontal lobe is the CEO of our brain, where we direct our body and other parts of our brain, so that we execute life purposefully. When our frontal lobe doesn’t work well, our more primitive instincts in our temporal lobe take over. Frontal Temporal Dementia can lead to drastic personality shifts as our ability to emote, reason, remember, and to make appropriate executive decisions becomes compromised.
Thankfully, if caught early, our understanding of sensory perception allows us to treat these degenerative changes through controlled sensory stimuli. Through our neurological understanding of the temporal lobe, we can target the parts of our patients’ brains that require improvement. Utilizing smells, sounds, flavors, balance exercises, can have a direct strengthening effect on our sleep, hormones, personality, memory, ability to learn, and more!
The following are a few of the following activities that Plasticity Brain Centers neurologists utilize to fortify the integrity of an individual’s temporal lobe:
- Vestibular stimulation
- Word recall
- Memory games
- Playing specific tones in one or both ears
- Smell identification
- Identification of nonverbal (body) language
- Vestibular rehabilitation
Through these exercises and therapies, our brain specialists can address many functions of the temporal lobe such as name and address memory issues, cognition, irregular sleep cycles, abnormal emotionality, hearing issues, and more. Losing function of the temporal lobe is often one of the most devastating struggles our patients face. Losing the ability to see or hear or smell is disheartening, of course—but losing our sense of who we are, of what makes us human, that’s terrifying.
Thankfully, the principle of neuroplasticity has provided cutting-edge brain centers with the ability to counteract these effects through therapies that activate specific stimuli in your different lobes. As we explore the different lobes of the brain, we can continue to help our patients achieve incredible outcomes for themselves and their families.