What Makes You Move? – The Function of the Parietal Lobe

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Stefan Mitrovic
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What Makes You Move? – The Function of the Parietal Lobe
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Highlights: The function of the parietal lobe is crucial to keeping you coordinated and balanced for even the most basic motor tasks. Learn about its role and function.

That place in your brain that allows you to coordinate your hand, eye, and exact quick reflex to catch a baseball is all thanks to the function of the parietal lobe.

If you’ve ever gone climbing or played any sport that required even the most basic of body movements, you wouldn’t believe how many unconscious processes take place in your brain just to keep you coordinated and balanced.

In this article we’ll be covering all about the parietal lobe and talk about:

  • The Main Function Of The Parietal Lobe.
  • What happens if your parietal lobe is damaged?
  • Can you live without your parietal lobe?
  • How do Alzheimer’s and stroke damage affect the parietal lobe?
  • How to train your parietal lobe and make it stronger
woman reading a book

What Is the Main Function of the Parietal Lobe?

We need to understand how our minds work so we can work our minds better.

—Jim Kwik, Author of Mindvalley’s Superbrain Quest

The reason you can move without tripping over your feet is all thanks to your parietal lobe. It is what also gives you your spatial orientation to properly navigate from one place to the other.

To get a better idea of why you would trip on your feet without your parietal lobe, think about how you are able to bounce a basketball without needing to look at the ball at all times.

Your parietal lobe is what gives you the awareness of where your hand is in respect to the ball. You don’t really need to think of your hand and the ball, you just move and start bouncing the ball while your awareness is on the game and opponents.

So we know that it gives you the ability to move and play ball; But you might be asking yourself, “What Does The Parietal Region Of The Brain Do?”

Split across two hemispheres, the left and right sides both serve slightly functions.

What does the right parietal lobe do?

The right parietal lobe’s main function is to successfully interpret sensory information. This includes our sense of speech, sight, and touch.

It also allows us to move, have a sense of orientation in our environment, and understand basic tasks like reading, writing, and arithmetics.

What does the left parietal lobe do?

It’s found that the right and left parietal lobes are very closely associated with similar tasks. The left side, however, is more closely associated with number processing and the retrieval of learned facts involved in decisions on object names.

Well aside from your spatial orientation to properly navigate from one place to another, and the ability to identify the position, location, and movement of the body and its separate parts.

The function of the parietal lobe also includes…

  1. Interpreting language and words 
    Controls the ability of speech, reading, and writing.
  2. Spatial and Visual Orientation 
    Responsible for visual-spatial perception, which helps us navigate through our environment.
  3. Touch Sensation 
    Responsible for our body’s perception of touch, temperature, and pain.
  4. Coordinating Movement 
    Gives you an auto ability to identify the location and movement of your body and its separate parts.
  5. Mathematical Calculations 
    The ability to compute and deal with numbers.

For those curious cats out there, let’s skip the listicles and give you a more real-life everyday example of how the parietal lobe comes into action. 

We asked a practical question and were surprised by the answer.

Main Function Of The Parietal Lobe

How the Parietal Lobe Works: A Practical Example

What does the parietal lobe do while driving?

As you drive, the parietal lobe is hard at work busy integrating all sorts of information from all of your body’s senses. This area of your brain knows how to manipulate objects and is responsible for visuo-spatial perception. When you switch your attention from one location to another, your parietal lobe is activated.

In a study published in the February 1998 edition of the journal Brain Research at Carnegie Mellon University; Just listening to someone talking can reduce the activity of parietal lobe associated with spatial processing by 37 percent. This also results in a drop in driving performance. 

What this means is that even if you don’t hold your phone while driving, you are still at an increased risk of a collision. 

So there you have it, science has spoken! So drive safe, and pack your phone away from reach. We want to keep you and your parietal lobe safe and intact.

man driving a car

What Happens If Your Parietal Lobe Is Damaged?

Your parietal lobes’ location sits across your brain’s left and right hemispheres. Damage or injury to either one can cause many difficulties in everyday life. 

When researching, how does a stroke affect the parietal lobe? We found that due to the parietal lobe’s role in interpreting sensory information, visuospatial reasoning, and language skills, damage can have a wide range of complications.

Three most common syndromes of parietal lobe damage:

  • Right parietal lobe damage can hinder your ability to care for your body because it undermines your ability to notice or care for at least one side of the body.

    This phenomenon is known as contralateral neglect. People with damage to the right parietal lobe may also be unable to make or draw things.

    Injury to the right parietal lobe could result in amorphosynthesis, a condition in which a person has a perception of only one side of the body.
  • Damage to the left parietal lobe can result in a combination of symptoms known as Gerstmann’s syndrome. Anyone with Gerstmann’s syndrome usually experiences right-left confusion, writing difficulties, and struggles with arithmetic computation.

    It can also produce disorders of language and the inability to perceive objects properly.
  • Damage that crosses both parietal lobes often prevents proper motor skill function and visual attention. This condition, also known as Balint’s syndrome, affects the ability to control voluntary eye movement and reach out and touch an object you may be looking at directly.

    It also causes visual simultagnosia, which hinders your ability to see and construct a full visual picture. For example, when looking at a coffee table with books, a person with this condition will only be able to see a table, a book, a coffee cup, never seeing the whole picture, but just its separate parts.

So whenever we talk about the brain, we always stumble across the all-famous question “can you live without your [insert brain region here].”

So for the sake of science, curiosity, and us doing our jobs, we went ahead to try and answer it for you curious folks out there…

Can you live without your parietal lobe?

So, after a lot of researching and talking about the effects of damage to the parietal lobe, our best educated and logical guess would be…(drum roll please)…, probably not.

Without your parietal lobe would be a nightmare…you wouldn’t have any sensory perception of any sort at all. From the taste, auditory, sight, touch, and smell. And that’s not including the lack of ability to process any language.

So if you could by some miracle live without it, we doubt it would be for very long….

Sheesh, that was morbid, Let’s move on…

How does Alzheimer’s affect the parietal lobe?

How does Alzheimer’s affect the parietal lobe?

As we mentioned before, the parietal lobe plays an important role in integrating our senses together, which makes damage to that area of the brain a hindrance to your everyday life.

The left parietal lobe is thought to be the more dominant side because of how it structures information to allow you to read and write, make calculations, perceive objects normally, and produce language. Basically, these functions are important for us to get by in everyday life.

Injury or damage to the left parietal lobe results in problems in writing and computing basic numerical values and being unable to tell left from right. You basically begin to forget things you take for granted like people you know or which finger is the index finger.

In addition, it can also cause a condition known as apraxia. Most notable in the dominant (left parietal lobe) hemisphere of the brain, this disorder makes it difficult for an individual to perform basic movement actions.

The right parietal lobe (non-dominant lobe) receives information from the occipital lobe and helps provide us with a complete ‘picture’ of the world around us.

Damage to that side may result in an inability to recognize faces, surroundings, or even objects and things we use every day (visual agnosia). A person with visual agnosia can recognize the voice of a person they know but not how they look like.

It’s important to note that, the parietal lobe has a role in helping us locate objects in our space, any damage can lead to problems in skilled movements (constructional apraxia) leading to difficulties in drawing or picking objects up.

Now that we’ve covered a whole lot about the parietal lobe, let’s end this article on a brighter note…

How You Train Your Parietal Lobe and Make It Stronger

Since your parietal lobe is closely involved in spatial reasoning and your sense of your body’s movement within the world.

Simply speaking, doing visual puzzle exercises, playing a game like Tetris, or even putting a jigsaw puzzle together is a great way to train your parietal lobe and your brain as a whole.

Of course, we never want to forget about the benefits of physical exercise! Literally, any exercise that puts your body through a variety of movements and physical coordination (i.e. playing basketball) are awesome ways to train your brain!

We’ve written about some great tips on brain training exercises. Check them out to get started with your brain training.

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Stefan Mitrovic

Stefan Mitrovic

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