Parietal lobe: features and functions

the parietal lobe, Located under the cranial bone which gives it its name and between the frontal and occipital lobes, is one of the most important cerebral structures both by its size and by the processes in which it participates.

In fact, it is so crucial to successfully performing various mental processes that it is virtually impossible to talk about this part of the brain as if it were a “simple” piece of our nervous system or a structure. which fulfills a single characteristic function.

Then we will see what are the characteristics of the parietal lobe and in what processes it participates.

    What is the parietal lobe?

    This part of the brain is an area of ​​the cerebral cortex which is located just behind the frontal lobe: two lobes are separated by the so-called central groove. however, the parietal lobe works with it and the rest of the brain lobes, As it includes a large association area, which can be seen as a powerhouse in which many types of information are mixed to generate a unit.

    Although the parietal lobe specializes more in certain brain functions than others, one of its main characteristics is that integrates data from different sources. For example, it mixes data related to what is seen and data that tells us what is heard, and brings up a full perceptual experience.

    Likewise, in this area of ​​the cerebral cortex, there are many memories which, once “stored” by the hippocampus, move until they are fixed in the neural networks of this lobe. In the memories are integrated all the sensory information that comes to us from the outside world, but also the feelings and emotions linked to this piece of memory. In other words, perceptual processes and the regulation of moods lead to the parietal lobe.

    Thus, if only one word is to be chosen to define the function of the parietal lobe, it should be “integration”, A concept that refers to the functions of many other parts of the brain.

    Functions of this area of ​​the brain

    The functions performed by the neural networks of the parietal lobe are numerous and variedBut in summary, we can say that it plays an important role in particular in three classes of processes: the integration and the processing of sensory information coming from different “channels”, the processing of symbolic information (which includes the processes related to language and its use) and digital information processing, which is basic for counting and performing mathematical operations.

    1. Sensory integration

    One of the largest areas of association in the brain is included in the parietal lobeThis means that information from all areas of the body is combined in that area to result in information that is more than the sum of the parts. Therefore, the creation of abstract concepts is done in part thanks to the parietal lobe, thanks to which we can generate, for example, the idea of ​​what a dog is, with its associated movement, touch and smell.

    But in the parietal lobe, not only does data about the world around us and what lives in it meet, but also information on how we relate to this world in real time. For example, it is in the parietal lobe that the data of the muscles of the body collects, thanks to which we have an idea of ​​the physical position and posture in which we find ourselves. The same goes for touching it. In short, the parietal lobe is responsible for somesthesia processing, that is, the sensory ability to recognize bodily sensations.

    Likewise, the parietal lobe works along the frontal lobe to provide feedback on how the voluntary movements we are performing are going, so that we can correct them immediately if we detect unforeseen events.

    Out of curiosity, this feature includes graphesthesia, which is the ability to recognize letters and words when an element touches the skin by crossing their shape.

    2. Processing of symbolic analytical information

    Another of the great functions of the parietal lobe is to work with symbols and arithmetic. The mathematical function is carried out in conjunction with the above, because it is from the analysis of what is sensually perceived how one can imagine a sequence of units with which to work mathematically.

    As the parietal lobe is a place where many mental processes intermingle, it makes possible the abstract thinking necessary to think in symbols.

    In this sense, the location of the parietal lobe is very relevant in this regard, because it is in a central position in which it can receive afferents from all parts of the central nervous system. This allows you to integrate information from a wide variety of places, thereby participating in the emergence of the global experience that appears in our consciousness.

    Parietal lobe injuries

    As is often the case in psychobiology, part of the functions of a brain structure tell us about the functions they perform. In the case of the parietal lobe, these lesions testify to the multiplicity of tasks performed by groups of neurons of that part of the brain.

    Left parietal lobe injury

    Injury to the parietal lobe of the left hemisphere can lead to the development of Gerstmann syndrome., Which includes symptoms such as acalculia (acquired inability to perform calculations), left and right confusion, and difficulty writing (spelling).

      Right parietal lobe injury

      Be healthy the rest of the brain, injury to the right parietal lobe can produce heminegligenceThat is, inability to pay attention to stimuli present on the left side of the body when the person is not aware of this problem (a phenomenon known as anosognosia).

      People with heminegligence completely neglect half of their body, which means they don’t wash, dress or paint it, and similarly they will act like they don’t know everything. what is happening on one side of their body.

      Lesion of both parietal lobes

      When the parietal lobes of the left and right hemispheres are injured, Balint syndrome can appear.. This is a serious neurological disorder that primarily affects perception and psychomotor ability, and for which there is no cure, so treatment is based on managing the symptoms they produce.

      Among its symptoms is the inability to perceive the images as a whole, i.e. separate elements are seen but it is not known how far they are from oneself or from each other or from each other. position they occupy. Likewise, difficulties appear in the coordination of eye movements (optic ataxia).

      final

      The parietal lobe is characterized by the way it works in conjunction with many other areas of the brain, By offering them a space in which they can integrate their torrents of information with each other.

      This, of course, does not mean that in this part of the cerebral cortex we cannot find more or less specialized areas, and in fact we have seen that several of them are particularly involved in vision and execution and the tracking of movements in coordination with the posterior zone of the frontal lobe.

      However, by its highly distributed nature, the brain functions from neural networks scattered in many different places, And in this sense, the parietal lobe is no exception. Consequently, these functions are very relative and really exist thanks to the joint work of several areas of the nervous system.

      In conclusion, the parietal lobe works in coordination with other areas of the cerebral cortex for the processes of perception, thought and movement to occur and work. To do this, it processes some of the information that arrives from other areas of the brain and sends them to other networks of nerve cells so that they can continue to work on them.

      Bibliographical references:

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      • Goldenberg, G. (2009). Apraxia and parietal lobes. Neuropsychology. 47 (6): pages 1449 to 1459.
      • Manes, F., Niro, M. (2014). Use your brain. Buenos Aires: Planet.
      • Ratey, JJ (2003). Brain: instruction manual. Barcelona: Mondadori.
      • Zuluaga, JA (2001). Neurodevelopment and stimulation. Madrid: Medica Panamericana.

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