Temporal 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 temporal lobe is one of the four main lobes or regions of the cerebral cortex. It is located in the largest division of the brain known as the forebrain (prosencephalon). As with the frontal, occipital, and parietal lobes, there is one temporal lobe located in each brain hemisphere.

Temporal Lobes

  • The temporal lobes are responsible for sensory processing, auditory perception, language and speech production, and memory storage.
  • The temporal lobes are located in the prosencephalon or forebrain between the occipital and parietal lobes.
  • Important structures within the temporal lobes include the olfactory cortex, the hippocampus, Wernicke's Area, and the amygdala.
  • The amygdala controls many autonomic responses to emotional stimulants and is also responsible for memory sorting and storing.
  • Damage to the temporal lobes can result in impaired auditory perception, difficulty understanding and producing language, and memory loss.

The temporal lobes play an important role in organizing sensory input, auditory perception, language and speech production, as well as memory association and formation. Structures of the limbic system, including the olfactory cortex, amygdala, and the hippocampus are located within the temporal lobes. Damage to this area of the brain can result in problems with memory, understanding language, and maintaining emotional control.

Location

The temporal lobes are anterior to the occipital lobes and inferior to the frontal lobes and parietal lobes. A large deep groove known as the Fissure of Sylvius separates the parietal and temporal lobes.

Function

The temporal lobes are involved in several functions of the body related to thought and sensory processing, including:

  • Auditory Perception
  • Memory
  • Speech
  • Language Comprehension
  • Emotional Response
  • Visual Perception
  • Facial Recognition

The temporal lobes aid in auditory processing and sound perception in addition to being vital to language comprehension and speech production. Speech and language-related tasks are accomplished by Wernicke's Area, which helps to process words and interpret spoken language.

Another primary role of the temporal lobes is memory and emotion processing and the most important brain structure involved in this is the amygdala. The amygdala receives sensory information from the thalamus and other areas of the cerebral cortex. Limbic structures of the temporal lobe are responsible for regulating many emotions as well as forming, processing, and classifying memories based on new and existing information.

The amygdala, with the help of the hippocampus, aids in memory formation and connects emotions and senses, such as smell and sound, to memories. This mass of cells sorts through memories to determine where they will be stored long-term and also controls many autonomic responses to different stimulants such as the fight or flight response to fear.

Damage to the Temporal Lobes

Damage to the temporal lobes can present a number of issues. A stroke or seizure that impacts the temporal lobes can result in an inability to understand language or speak properly. An individual may also have difficulty hearing or perceiving sound if they have suffered trauma.

Additionally, temporal lobe damage may lead an individual to develop anxiety disorders or aggressive behavior—memory loss and hallucinations sometimes follow. In certain cases, patients even develop a condition called Capgras Delusion, which is the belief that people, often loved ones, are not who they appear to be.