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  • Chloe Zuntz

Brain Basics: The Occipital Lobes

Located in the back lower part of your head, the occipital lobes are the smallest brain lobes. They may be small, but they are mighty! These lobes are critical in the very important sense of sight. They work directly with optic nerves to create light captured by your eyes into understandable images. Signals from the eyes are sent back to the occipital lobes, where they are processed into something the rest of your brain recognizes. It does so by taking color, shape, texture and matching with a known object (for example, a oblong, yellow, fist sized object is a lemon). This part of the brain is also important for facial recognition. Because of its role in taking images and giving them meaning, this part of the brain is also very important in reading.

Part of this lobes function in vision is mapping the world, which requires it to work with the parietal lobes to create a sense of depth and spatial perception. It is critical that this part of the brain communicates with other areas to create associations and assign meaning to objects, allowing them to be committed to memory. This is critical in forming appropriate reactions to several types of stimuli. This might include knowing that that small brown nugget is a peanut, and remembering you are allergic to those. Damage to this area can cause visual distortions of hallucinations, such as seeing objects bigger or smaller than they are in reality, or as being in motion when they are really still. Color perception might also be off. You may have poor facial recognition and trouble knowing what objects are when you see them. It may also be hard to find objects in space (for example, if I were in a field with you and asked you to find the ranch dog running around you may not be able to do so, despite him being in plain sight). Reading may also be more difficult.

Training the occipital lobes with neurofeedback can improve your ability to recall faces, as well as objects in general. Reading might no longer be as difficult. Scanning your visual field to locate objects (maybe finding your glasses when they are sitting right there on the counter) will become easier. Increasing communication between this part of the brain and others by training for cohesive brain wave activity could improve the ability to store visual memories and how to respond to certain objects and people. If you have trouble accurately gauging size, colors, and shapes or if you sometimes see objects moving when they are not necessarily in reality (is that tree swaying or am I losing it?) neurofeedback can help. You might also notice an improvement in your facial recognition! Training this area of the brain might even help you stay grounded even where there is intense outside stimuli, such as intense lights or lots of movement, bombarding you.

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