So, you just made a terrible decision. Something so absurd you smack the front of your head in disgust.
Well, you actually just smacked the part of your brain that made that decision. The frontal lobe, located in the front part of the brain, is the largest of the four main lobes and is considered our emotional control center and home to our personality and decision-making abilities.
The frontal lobe is also linked to sensory and memory centers throughout the brain and allows us to determine how to use information that is stored elsewhere. To put it simply, it allows us to think things through and rationalize decision making.
Frontal Lobe Development
The frontal lobe is not fully developed until about age 25. In the early years of childhood, the growth and development of the frontal lobe can be monitored by the ability to complete tasks as directed and without distraction.
As the frontal lobe is largely responsible for moral decision making as well, its development can be seen in a child’s empathy and attention to others.
Studies show that as the frontal lobe grows and develops rapidly in early childhood, so do these abilities. Growth is measured by the child’s level of working memory, temperament, and language usage — all of which are heavily influenced by the frontal lobe.
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Adolescent and Adult Frontal Lobe Development
The adolescent frontal lobe is still developing and may be influenced by puberty-related hormones.
This can be seen in impulsive and reward-seeking behaviors. The growth of the frontal lobe also can be influenced by the use of drugs and alcohol in this time period.
A sign of an underdeveloped frontal lobe in this time period can be linked to poor decision-making and/or the abuse of these substances, which can also limit frontal lobe growth.
In short, it’s best to avoid substance use before age 25 as it can limit the development of the most important decision-making center of the brain.
You feel good knowing that $20 can buy you 10 $2 candy bars. Thank your frontal lobe for knowing simple math.
Activity in this lobe allows us to solve problems, reason, make judgments, make plans and choices, take action, and generally control our living environment.
The frontal lobe controls your voluntary muscles, or the muscles you use to ride a bike, jog, throw a baseball, or make other conscious movements.
Other parts of your brain control involuntary movement and muscle coordination. Also, the ability to determine the position of your body in a natural environment — called spatial orientation — is another function of the frontal lobe.
The frontal lobe gives us the ability to communicate and interact appropriately in any given situation.
This area of the brain also allows us to understand the thinking and experiences of others, which helps you determine how to respond or behave when placed in a social situation.
For example, was that joke your friend told actually funny? Maybe not, but you laughed anyway to make them feel better. That’s the frontal lobe at work.
Can You Live Without Your Frontal Lobe?
Technically, you can live without a frontal lobe. However, you would experience a total paralysis of your cognitive abilities and motor control.
In short, you wouldn’t be able to reason and form simple thoughts, and you also wouldn’t be able to move. So, it would be best to keep your frontal lobe intact.
Interested in learning more about the fascinating workings of your brain? Visit the UPMC Department of Neurosurgery online to learn more about the latest in the field of brain mapping tests, therapy, and procedures.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .
The UPMC Department of Neurosurgery is the largest academic neurosurgical provider in the United States. We treat conditions of the brain, skull base, spine, and nerves, including the most complex disorders. We perform more than 11,000 procedures each year, making our team one of the most experienced in the world. Whether your condition requires surgery or not, we strive to provide the most advanced, complete care possible. Our surgeons are developing new techniques and tools, including minimally invasive treatments. Find an expert near you.