The cerebral cortex of the brain is divided into four separate lobes and the temporal lobe is one section, or lobe. The temporal lobe helps to regulate language, emotions, learning, memory and hearing.
The temporal lobe has several functions to do with speech and vision and it plays a key role in the processing of information received from the eyes and ears as well as assisting with spatial navigation and speech. The temporal lobe also contains the hippocampus, which is the structure of the brain responsible for long term memory.
What does the temporal lobe do?
The primary auditory cortex is contained within the temporal lobe. This section is responsible for interpreting the sounds and auditory signals you hear through auditory receptors and although other parts of the brain are able to process auditory signals, the temporal lobe has the most important role. Different sections of the auditory cortex are receptive to different sound frequencies and pitches. This part of the temporal lobe is also able to help you work out where exactly a sound is originating from.
Wernicke’s area is a specialist section of the left temporal lobe that spans the region between the parietal and temporal lobes. This part of the temporal lobe plays a crucial role in high-level auditory processing, which for humans includes verbal memory and speech comprehension.
The underside of the temporal cortex is responsible for the high-level visual processing of complicated visual stimuli such as faces and scenes. It helps you to remember detailed scenes, objects, and most importantly, faces. This means you use this section of the brain when you are trying to figure out who that person was who just said “hello” to you as they walked past on the high street.
The hippocampus is responsible for the retention of long term memory and is located deep within the temporal lobe. It acts like a computer hard drive by providing storage space for new memories at the same time as storing old ones. But there is a lot more to the memory function of the brain than simply remembering a few pictures. Spatial navigation is the process whereby we remember a place and make the association with what we are seeing to our memory of that place. Spatial navigation gives us the ability to find our way from A to B without getting utterly lost. SatNav might be able to help us find our way, but unless we are also able to utilize our spatial navigation skills, things are likely to go horribly wrong.
Damage to the temporal lobe section of the brain can result in all kinds of problems. These include problems with visual and auditory perception, problems with language comprehension, impaired long term memory, changes to personality and typical behavior, and problems with the selective attention of visual and auditory input. Research has shown that seizures in the temporal lobe can have a devastating impact on the personality. Epilepsy affecting the temporal lobe often causes paranoia, aggression and speech problems. Severe damage to the temporal lobe can also lead to changes in sexual behavior.