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The Brain Functions Involved in Cognitive Functions

By Tracey Roizman, D.C. ; Updated August 14, 2017
Cognition is a function that requires multiple areas of the brain to act simultaneously.

While the various parts of the brain have been observed to have discreet functions for processing specific types of information, the process of thought, or cognition, uses a neural network of interconnections between separate areas. A region of the brain can play different roles in learning and memory, for instance, depending on the nature of its interactions with the areas within its network, according to research done at Rotman Research Institute of Baycrest Centre and Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Canada.

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Prefrontal Cortex

This area of the brain is found in the forward part of the frontal lobes. The prefrontal cortex is the newest, most advanced part of the brain and is unique to humans and other primates. This area is involved in the highest order of cognitive functions, such as planning and evaluating outcomes and consequences of actions and events, says the website Brain Explorer. Personality traits and appropriateness of behavior in a social context are also expressed through this area.

Frontal Lobes

The large area of the frontal lobes behind the prefrontal cortex contains centers for memory retention and language. The left and right frontal lobes are specialized for different functions, with the left containing more of the language centers and the right typically processing mostly nonverbal information. Damage to the frontal lobes impairs flexibility of thought patterns and the ability to solve problems. Also affected is the ability to use input from the external environment to guide learning, according to the website Neuro Skills.

Parietal Lobes

The parietal lobes are located directly behind the frontal lobes and their contribution to cognition lies in the processing of sensory information into a perception, or recognition of what the information signifies, says Neuro Skills. Damage to the left parietal lobe can lead to a condition known as Gerstmann's syndrome, characterized by difficulty with writing, speaking, mathematics and recognition of objects. Damage to the right parietal lobe results in lack of acknowledgment of where the body and surrounding objects are, leading to difficulty in putting objects together in a constructive manner.

Temporal Lobes

Located to the outside and beneath the frontal and parietal lobes, the temporal lobes are involved in auditory processing, particularly specialized for speech interpretation, memory and the naming of objects. Recognition of faces and familiar scenery, as well as identifying smells and sounds are also functions of the temporal lobes, according to the website Waiting. Conversion of short-term to long-term memory occurs in the hippocampi, structures located deep within the temporal lobes.

Occipital Lobe

This lobe, located at the back of the brain, is entirely devoted to receiving and processing visual information. Discrimination of movement within the visual fields and discrimination of color happens here. In a condition known as Anton's syndrome, damage to the occipital lobe causes inability to recognize objects by sight with a concurrent lack of awareness of the deficit, according to the Merck Manuals Online Medical Library.

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About the Author

Tracey Roizman, DC is a writer and speaker on natural and preventive health care and a practicing chiropractor. She also holds a B.S. in nutritional biochemistry.

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