Frontal Lobes: Movement and Cognition

Brain Lobes
The four lobes of the brain include the frontal lobe (red), the parietal lobe (yellow), temporal lobe (green), and occipital lobe (orange). Firstsignal/Getty Images

The frontal lobes are one of the four main lobes or regions of the cerebral cortex. They are positioned at the front-most region of the cerebral cortex and are involved in movement, decision-making, problem-solving, and planning.

The frontal lobes can be subdivided into two main areas: the prefrontal cortex and the motor cortex. The motor cortex contains the premotor cortex and primary motor cortex.

The prefrontal cortex is responsible for personality expression and the planning of complex cognitive behaviors. The premotor and primary motor areas of the motor cortex contain nerves that control the execution of voluntary muscle movement.

Location

Directionally, the frontal lobes are located in the anterior portion of the cerebral cortex. They are directly anterior to the parietal lobes and superior to the temporal lobes. The central sulcus, a large deep groove, separates the parietal and frontal lobes.

Function

The frontal lobes are the largest brain lobes and are involved in several functions of the body including:

  • Motor Functions
  • Higher Order Functions
  • Planning
  • Reasoning
  • Judgment
  • Impulse Control
  • Memory
  • Language and Speech

The right frontal lobe controls activity on the left side of the body and the left frontal lobe controls activity on the right side. An area of the brain involved in language and speech production, known as Broca's area, is located in the left frontal lobe.

The prefrontal cortex is the front portion of the frontal lobes and manages complex cognitive process such as memory, planning, reasoning, and problem-solving. This area of the frontal lobes functions to help us set and maintain goals, curb negative impulses, organize events in time order, and form our individual personalities.

The primary motor cortex of the frontal lobes is involved in voluntary movement. It has nerve connections with the spinal cord, which enable this brain area to control muscle movements. Movement in the various areas of the body is controlled by the primary motor cortex, with each area linked to a specific region of the motor cortex.

Body parts requiring fine motor control take up larger areas of the motor cortex, while those requiring simpler movements take up less space. For example, areas of the motor cortex controlling movement in the face, tongue, and hands take up more space than areas linked to the hips and trunk.

The premotor cortex of the frontal lobes has neural connections with the primary motor cortex, spinal cord, and brainstem. The premotor cortex enables us to plan and perform proper movements in response to external cues. This cortical region helps to determine the specific direction of a movement.

Frontal Lobe Damage

Damage to the frontal lobes can result in a number of difficulties such as a loss of fine motor function, speech and language processing difficulties, thinking difficulties, an inability to comprehend humor, a lack of facial expression, and changes in personality.

Frontal lobe damage can also result in dementia, memory disorders, and a lack of impulse control.

More Cortex Lobes

Parietal Lobes: These lobes are positioned directly posterior to the frontal lobes. The somatosensory cortex is found within the parietal lobes and is positioned directly posterior to the motor cortex of the frontal lobes. The parietal lobes are involved in receiving and processing sensory information.

Occipital Lobes: These lobes are positioned at the back of the skull, inferior to the parietal lobes. The occipital lobes process visual information.

Temporal Lobes: These lobes are located directly inferior to the parietal lobes and posterior to the frontal lobes. The temporal lobes are involved in a multitude of functions including speech, auditory processing, language comprehension, and emotional responses.