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What Are the Functions of the Temporal Lobe?

The areas of the brain, including the temporal lobe.
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  • Written By: C.B. Fox
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 20 March 2014
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The temporal lobe is a region of the cerebrum. The main functions of the temporal lobe are the processing and analysis of auditory information. Along with the rest of the cerebrum, the temporal lobe also plays a role in memory, personality and behavior.

Auditory reception and processing are the primary functions of the temporal lobe. Within this large section of brain, sounds are processed and analyzed for meaning. Through the temporal lobe, a person is able to differentiate between different sounds, including musical tones and the sounds of different words in language. The temporal lobe is also partially responsible for memory, including visual memory, behavior and speech.

The temporal lobe is split into two sections down the same midline that separates the cerebrum into two hemispheres. The functions of the temporal lobe are different on each of these sides. The left side of the temporal lobe deals with language and verbal memory. The right side of this lobe includes the ability to process non-verbal sounds and non-verbal memory.

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Injury to the temporal lobe, whether through trauma, disease or seizure, can cause a great number of problems. One of the main symptoms of damage to the temporal lobe is the inability to correctly process auditory information. Depending on whether the left or right lobe of the temporal region is affected, an affected patient may have difficulty with musical abilities or with the ability to make sense of language. The capability to categorize information, such as matching words to pictures, can also be affected.

Severe injury to the temporal lobe can cause personality changes. These changes commonly appear as a loss of humor and an increased activity level. One of the functions of the temporal lobe is regulating violent and sexual impulses, and severe damage may interfere with this ability.

The temporal lobe is located within the cerebrum, which is the outermost portion of the brain. In humans, this section is located above and in front of the midbrain and the cerebellum. The temporal lobe is located underneath the frontal and parietal lobes of the brain, just above the ears in humans.

The cerebrum is the most recent structure to have evolved in the brains of animals, and the temporal lobe is one of its five structures. Mammals, especially primates, have the most well-developed cerebrum, which is where consciously controlled actions and thoughts are processed. Sensory data is also processed and analyzed in this area of the brain. The cerebrum is divided into five main structures, though most functions of the cerebrum require the use of more than one of these structures at a time.

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Temporal lobe epilepsy is also the most common type of epilepsy, with seizures beginning in the temporal lobe of the brain. Perhaps more research into this area will help scientists find a cure for this disease? Recent research suggests there may be surgical solutions for epilepsy on the horizon.

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