Brain Basics: The Temporal Lobes
The temporal lobes are located on the side of the head, spanning from the temples to just behind the ears. The left and right temporal lobes are the furthest lobes from each other in the brain, and house many important sub-structures. Because of the amount of specific areas with critical and diverse functions, this blog will be broken up into discussing the different ares of the temporal lobes rather than the temporal lobes as a whole.
Some primary functional ares include the hippocampus and amygdala, which are both part of what is called the limbic system. Because of the importance of the amygdala in the work we do with neurofeedback regarding stored stress, stress responses, and PTSD, it will get its own article. With that said, for now know that it is important in storing and regulating emotions. The hippocampus also plays a role in emotion, but is more well understood for its role in memory formation and control of the autonomic nervous system (that is to say involuntary bodily functions like heart rate, arousal, appetite, digestion, ect). Its role in memory is particular to declarative memory. Declarative memory is the ability to remember specific facts and figures, as opposed to procedural memory which is the ability to remember the process of how to perform a certain task. For example, knowing how to ride a bike relies on procedural memory, while remembering the specific turns to get from point A to point B relies on declarative memory.
The temporal lobes also house parts of the brain called Wernickes and Broca's areas. These are both critical in language and communication. Wernickes area is critical in understanding speech. It takes sounds from the environment and processes them into things you can understand. Broccas area on the other hand ensures that you are able to produce the sounds you want to form cohesive, understandable sentences. Damage to Wernickes area could manifest in someone not understanding the words someone is saying, for example peanut butter, while damage to Brocas area would cause someone to have full understanding of a sentence, but not be able to respond appropriately. For example when asked what their dogs favorite treat is they may be able to imagine peanut butter, but only able to repeat the word ‘jazz’ or something else that does not make sense in the context.
A dysregulated or damaged temporal lobe could result in emotional disorders, which will be further covered in a following article on the amygdala. Because of its role in memory, a person with damage or suboptimal function in this part of the brain may have issues recalling specific facts, figures, objects, ect. They may also have difficulty with object recognition. This, in combination with this lobes importance in language comprehension and formulation could lead to learning difficulties and dyslexia. Because of the major role in the autonomic nervous system, dysregulation here could lead to digestive issues, changes in appetite or thirst, poor or overactive arousal, anxiety, racing heart, and even temperature dysregulation among other issues.
Training the temporal lobes may improve your memory for facts and figures, which may improve performance in certain academic areas as well as everyday things such as remembering the directions to your favorite coffee shop, or recognizing the friend of a friend you met once and is now waving at you at Safeway. It could also help you better communicate with others, both through improving how you understand what others are trying to communicate with you as well as how to formulate cohesive and appropriate responses. In more extreme cases, it can help with learning disabilities and dyslexia. Improving the function of these lobes may also help with issues such as chronically upset stomach, nausea, having a racing heart, anxiety, poor or excessive appetite and poor or excessive arousal reactions.