The temporal lobe governs higher functions affecting intellect and personality behavior. The temporal lobe of the brain establishes long-term memories from short-term memories. Language comprehension and expression along with the ability to recognize and categorize verbal material is governed by the temporal lobe. Expression of personality and affective expression, such as anger or uncontrolled rage, are functions of the temporal lobe. Some other functions governed by the temporal lobe are music comprehension, visual perception, auditory perception, ability to attend to sensory stimuli.
The temporal lobe is two-sided, thus temporal lobes, plural, when speaking of the temporal lobe in term of distinct functions since the right and left temporal lobes govern distinct areas of brain function. The temporal lobe is one of four brain lobes and is located above the ears running back from the temples. It is below the frontal lobe, with the parietal lobe at the top-back and the occipital lobe at the rear. Since all three other lobes have some adjacency with the temporal lobe there are direct neuro-connections between the temporal lobe and each of the others, in contrast the frontal and occipital lobes have direct neuro-connections with only two other lobes. The parietal lobe also has direct connections with all three other lobes.
The major connections occurring between lobes are:
temporal -> frontal + temporal -> parietal + temporal -> occipital
parietal -> frontal + parietal -> temporal + parietal -> occipital
frontal -> temporal + frontal -> parietal
occipital -> temporal + occipital -> parietal
The major functions governed by the temporal lobes are:
- Sensory ability and comprehension: hearing, visual
- Music comprehension
- Memory acquisition
- Personality and affect expression
- Categorization of objects
- Language comprehension and expression
Memory, Language and Personality
Short-term memories are originally generated in the structures of the limbic system, principally in the amygdala, then transferred to the hippocampus in the mid-section (medial aspect) of both sides of the temporal lobe where long-term memories are established. If long-term memories are successfully established by the temporal lobe and the limbic features within it (amygdala and hippocampus), then, over time, long-term memories are transferred to various other areas of the brain and incorporated in divergent structural elements. This means that when long-term memories are recalled, the brain areas stimulated may be a vast array.
Language recognition and expression is governed by both sides of the temporal lobe. Language recall, such as knowing the right word to use, is governed by the left lobe while speaking is governed by the right lobe, for example, abnormal perseverative (non-stop) speech may occur if the right lobe is injured.
Personality expression is affected by the temporal lobes. This is readily seen in the case of brain injury, for example, injury to the temporal lobe may alter a person’s personality so that they become paranoid or suddenly have uncontrollable aggressive tendencies.
Agnosia of the Temporal Lobe
Agnosia is a condition in which recognition of specific sensory stimuli is lost. Under normal circumstances, something seen, heard or touched will be recognized in terms of name, description and function, with each feature correctly expressed and responded to, e.g., a coat picked up and worn as well as described and named. If agnosia is present, one or more of the key points–naming, describing, knowing function–will be missing, e.g., a coat may be named and described but not picked up and worn according to its function. To illustrate this, if a brain injury in the right temporal lobe results in a lesion that disrupts a neuro-connection to the occipital lobe, which governs vision, visual agnosia may result. Since only one neuro-pathway is generally affected by such injuries, there may be failure of visual perception recognition for “coat” but not for tactile perception recognition: “coat” would still be recognized if touched. There are multiple kinds of agnosia including prosopagnosia, which is the inability to recognize faces, a higher-order recognition function. Sometimes this agnosia is mistakenly taken for having “a bad memory for names.”
Much of what is known about brain function is learned as a result of studying brain injuries and epileptic lesions. The effects of brain injury on memory, language, personality and other functions is cumulative. Consequently, all activity that could exacerbate injury to already affected brain tissue must be avoided. The brain has an abundant capacity to generate compensatory neuro-pathways when injury occurs, so–with so many higher order functions at stake–correct diagnosis, treatment and therapy are critical in cases of brain injury damage whether it be from sports, accidents or illness.
Patrick McCaffrey, Ph.D. “Traumatic Brain Injury: Effects of Closed Head Injury.” Neuropathologies of Language and Cognition, CSU, Chico.
Jamie Simpson. “Temporal Lobe Functions,” LivingStrong.com
Rudolph Hatfield. “Right Temporal Lobe Functions,” GlobalPost.com
Robert P. Lehr Jr., Ph.D. “Brain Function.” Centre for Neuro Skills.
Robert P. Lehr Jr., Ph.D. “Temporal Lobes.” Centre for Neuro Skills.
Rand Swenson. “Limbic System.” Dartmouth College.
“There are 4 possible causes of agnosia” Ed. George Krucik, MD, MBA. Healthline.