Part of the brain called the forebrain contains a number of different elements. One of these is the cerebrum, which is divided into sections referred to as lobes. The parietal lobe is one of these sections that sits in between the front and back lobes, known as the frontal and occipital lobes. The name of this section of the brain may not mean much until it is understood that it sits under the parietal bone.
Like most brain structures, the parietal lobe has many functions, which may be different depending on which side of the lobe is considered, since it stretches to both sides of the brain. The right side helps to do things like interpret spatial information, and it may have an effect on regulating personality. The left side is involved in a person’s ability to perceive numbers, understand what objects are, and perform writing tasks. This side is also involved in language production and perception.
Researchers know that the functions vary by side because damage to either or both sides of the lobe has been shown to inhibit certain abilities. Additionally, a number of tests on people with undamaged brains have helped determined what sections are involved in certain tasks. For example, a study performed at the end of the 20th century showed the very special part the left parietal lobe and the frontal lobe have to play in mathematics operations, even simple math like arithmetic. When test participants were asked to answer simple arithmetic problems, a great deal of activity was shown in the parietal and frontal lobe sections of the brain.
It’s understood that damage to the lobe through injury, malformation, cell death, or the presence of tumors can result in significant changes in human behavior and personality. People with such damage can suffer from conditions like aphasia, which means they have trouble remembering certain words or producing some types of language. Similarly, it’s been shown that the ability to remember numbers decreases if damage or illness is present.
There are several conditions specifically associated with problems with the parietal lobe. One of these is Gerstmann syndrome, which may be present in childhood or adulthood (especially after a stroke), and has symptoms that include trouble writing (dysgraphia), challenges when speaking, issues in understanding the communication of others, and difficulty with math (dyscalculia). How to address the disorder isn’t always known, but early diagnosis may help, especially in young children, since occupational therapy can be used to help overcome any deficits.