The Frontal Lobes

The large section of matter in the front part of our brain is called the frontal lobe. This brain area controls the higher functions of the human mind, such as memory, mood, general thinking, language production, personality, and consciousness. While not crucial for feeding, breathing, populating, or avoiding danger, it is the area of our brain that makes us uniquely human. The frontal lobes serve as the coordinator of all of the information which is received and processed by the other areas of the brain. Think of the frontal lobes as the leader of an orchestra and the rest of the brain as the instruments. Without the conductor, the instruments sound jumbled and disorganized.

Recent research has found that the frontal lobes continue to develop in humans beyond age 22 and possibly as far as age 35. This is due to a process called “neuronal pruning”. If you think of a tree as having healthier and stronger branches once it has been pruned, this is what happens in normal brain development. If something happens, however, to interrupt that process, such as a serious accident or injury to the frontal lobes, the results can be devastating.

Because of its location, the frontal lobes are most susceptible to injury during traumatic accidents. In fact, the most common cognitive complaints from patients traumatically injured, attention and memory difficulties, word finding problems, and integrating information for problem solving and decision-making, are most likely due to damage to this area (after taking into account the effects of physical pain, emotional distress, and sleep disturbances).

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