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  • Chloe Zuntz

Brain Basics: The Central Lobe

The central lobes, or primary motor and somatosensory cortices, are the part of the brain right on the top of your head, where a headband might sit. While anatomically these are subdivisions of the frontal and parietal lobes, because of their unique and very critical functional characteristics, we train them as an individual section of the brain. In neurofeedback, we refer to these parts of the brain as the central lobe.

It is located on either side of the central sulcus, a major groove running from ear to ear across the brain. While they account for only a small area of the brain, these sections are critical for voluntary movement and senses. The motor cortex is responsible for allowing you as an individual to move freely. The left side of the cortex controls the right side of your body, and vice versa. The same is true for the somatosensory cortex, meaning that a sensation that happens on the left side of your body will be processed in the right side of your brain. These sensations include, touch, temperature, pain, pressure, texture. Another major role of the somatosensory cortex is proprioception, or the sense of where your limbs and body are in space. Generally, the areas that are controlled by each part of the brain have been mapped, as shown below. This type of map is called a homunculus, latin for little human. The body parts are proportional to the amount of the brain needed to control them, which is why things that need find motor control or high sensory sensitivity like the hands and mouth are so large.

Damage too, misfiring, or miscommunication of neurons in this part of the brain or the nerves connecting the body and brain can have several effects. Suboptimal functioning can lead to numbness or pain, especially tingling and/or burning sensations, increased sensitivity to touch, temperature, and poor balance and coordination. It can also result in difficulty determining exactly where a sensation is coming from. For example, you may know your arm is being touched, but are not sure if it's your forearm or bicep. Because this part of the brain is needed to know where in space your body is, if it is not functioning correctly things like walking and balancing can be more difficult, increasing the risk for injuries like sprains and muscle tears. Because of the role in voluntary movement, suboptimal functioning also commonly results in weakness, involuntary spasms and contractions, changes in muscle tone, and poor dexterity.

Training these areas with neurofeedback can help with both sensory and motor symptoms. This could be reduced or eliminated chronic pain. It can also help people with increased sensitivity to touch, texture, and temperatures have more typical reactions to those stimuli. Training this area could help you if you notice yourself being overstimulated by sensations that others seem unbothered by, like some types of fabrics or the tag in the back of your shirt. If you find yourself constantly tripping or bumping into things, training in this area can improve your coordination. This can be very important for things like injury prevention, and may even help you in your hobbies like sports!

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