What Is the Superior Temporal Lobe?

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  • Written By: Liz Thomas
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 10 September 2019
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The superior temporal lobe is one of three parts of the temporal lobe of the brain. Its main function is largely auditory, as it is the first spot of the brain that intercepts auditory signals. Both sides of the superior temporal lobe have different functions, as the right side deals more with emotions while the left side deals more with interpretation and comprehension.

This lobe is found to be much larger in humans than in other animals. In particular the left side of the superior temporal lobe is very large, as this section deals with the comprehension of languages. The actual position of the superior temporal lobe is on the top of the temporal lobe and spirals around the entire brain.

The left part of the lobe has been found to become very active when reading and speaking. More activity is found when individuals are reading aloud as opposed to reading silently. Sentence and language comprehension is also attributed to this area of the brain as it has found to be very active in determining the meaning of words.

The right side of the superior temporal lobe deals with perceiving melody and emotion. For instance, the right side of the lobe is much more active when recalling emotions connected to a sound or story. The emotions felt by an individual when reading a well loved story, for example, are processed by the right side of the lobe.


While the two sides of the superior temporal lobe do have different functions, these functions overlap. Both parts of the lobe are active when hearing and reading. Language and emotional comprehension occurs at the same time in both areas of the brain.

This area is considered to be the auditory cortex. The superior lobe is linked to the anterior middle and anterior-inferior lobes using inter-connected neurons and fibers. The entire network of links ranges from the language and auditory areas to the speech area of the frontal lobe and the inferior parietal lobule (IPL). This "circuit" of neurons was discovered using brain dissection.

The main function of the superior temporal lobe has been tested by measuring the brain activity during different tasks. Studies on individuals have shown that with all aspects of speech some part of it and the surrounding parts of the brain are active. The more activity in this area, the greater the importance to the task at hand.


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