Parietal Lobes: What To Know

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on September 02, 2022
4 min read

There’s much to learn regarding the parietal lobes, such as their function and location. The parietal lobes are responsible for sensory information, visual processing, and coordinating movement, and their responsibilities don’t end there. 

Parietal lobes play a crucial role in many daily activities; without them, we would not be able to distinguish one object from the next. In addition, we would have difficulties with reading, writing, mathematics, and navigation. 

There are two parietal lobes: the left and right parietal lobe. Each lobe has its own responsibilities. 

What Does the Parietal Lobe Do?

The left parietal lobe is associated with tracking certain body parts as they move. In contrast, the right parietal lobe keeps track of the environment around us.  

Overall, the parietal lobes are responsible for more than just tracking movement. Other parietal lobe functions include: 

  • Sensory input 
  • Spatial mapping and attention
  • Visuospatial processing
  • Reading
  • Mathematics 

The parietal lobes are often split into two functional groups: sensation and perception and sensory input. During sensation and perception, sensory information is integrated and developed into cognition. Sensory input, on the other hand, is an aspect of vision and helps create spatial maps of the world around us. 

Where Is the Parietal Lobe Located?

The parietal lobes are located in the brain, sitting above the temporal lobes and between the frontal and occipital lobes. 

Each parietal lobe has four substructures, and each substructure has its own responsibilities. These substructures include: 

  • Somatosensory cortex: This substructure works to receive and process sensory information obtained from the body. This includes senses such as touch, pain, and temperature. The somatosensory cortex receives data sent from the neural pathways to the spinal cord, brain stem, and thalamus.
  • Inferior parietal lobe: The inferior parietal lobe sits at the lower end of the parietal lobe and is responsible for language, mathematics, and body image. It also plays a significant role in spatial attention, auditory processing, and the perception of emotions via facial expressions.
  • Superior parietal lobe: The superior parietal lobe sits at the top of the parietal lobe and is responsible for spatial orientation and sensorimotor integration. Additionally, it receives visual and sensory signals from the hands.
  • Precuneus: The precuneus sits in the middle of the parietal lobes and is involved in visuospatial imagery, episodic memory retrieval, and first-person perspective.

Parietal lobe damage can occur from traumatic brain injuries such as vehicular accidents, gunshot wounds, and even falls. When the parietal lobes sustain damage, they may have difficulty reading and recognizing people and objects and may even experience trouble remembering bodies and limbs. Additionally, a person may be unable to multi-task, and problems with mathematics may arise. 

Depending on which parietal lobe is damaged, there may also be additional symptoms. For example, precise hand movements become more challenging when the left parietal lobe is damaged. This can result in difficulty with writing and drawing. Left-side parietal lobe damages also result in issues with mathematics and language disorders. 

On the other hand, right-sided parietal lobe damage is mainly perceptual, affecting a person’s ability to analyze pictures. It can also result in difficulties with spatial skills and self-care skills.  

Preventing Parietal Lobe Damage

Due to the severity of brain injuries, it’s essential to take steps to prevent these injuries from occurring. 

Since parietal lobes can become damaged under various circumstances, it’s essential always to practice safety when the head is involved. Some preventative measures you can take include: 

  • Wearing seatbelts when riding in vehicles 
  • Ensuring that young children are placed in safety or booster seats
  • Wearing helmets when riding bicycles, motorcycles, scooters, snowmobiles, etc. 
  • Wearing helmets when playing contact sports 
  • Taking care to remove tripping hazards around the home 
  • Adding non-slip shower mats to your shower 
  • Adding rails to any stairways in your home 
  • Ensuring that there is adequate lighting throughout your home 

Since there are no guaranteed cures for brain injuries, preventing them from happening in the first place is essential. If brain injury occurs, though, specific therapies and strategies can sometimes assist a patient in regaining and strengthening affected skills and adapting to those that are no longer present. 

Diagnosing Parietal Lobe Injuries 

Getting a diagnosis when dealing with any brain injury is essential. Several specialists, including psychiatrists, neurologists, and orthopedists, will be involved in making a proper diagnosis. These specialists will use physical and medical rehabilitation to assist the patient in regaining and maintaining as much function as possible. 

Tests will determine which skills have been affected. Patients will undergo tests of their motor functions, including strength, balance, coordination, and movement. A doctor may recommend specific exercises and strategies to improve any impairment. 

A speech consultant may be needed to help with skills of expression, communication, and comprehension. Additionally, a social worker may be brought in to assist with communication between the patient, their family, and the medical team. 

Aside from this, other medical tests may be performed to diagnose the exact injury, its location, and the extent of the damage. These tests will help determine what skills have been affected and may include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computer tomography (CT scans), x-rays, and other tests. 

Rehabilitation is usually necessary. The duration and intensity of this process are determined with the help of the tests used to diagnose the injury. Treatment often includes improving existing cognition and perception skills and adopting new techniques to plan, reason, and make decisions. 

No two brain injuries are the same, and the treatment plan will depend on the patient, the severity of the injury, and the skills and abilities affected.