What Is The Occipital Lobe And Why Is It Important To Us?

occipital lobe

The occipital lobe is the smallest of the four lobes of the brain.

Its primary function is processing visual stimuli, but there is a lot more to learn about this small, yet crucial part of our brain.

What Does Each Lobe Of The Brain Do?

The cerebral cortex is made out of the four lobes of the brain: parietal, frontal, temporal, and occipital. Each one of these has their own primary function.

Frontal lobe

The frontal lobe is responsible for speech, complex thought, and making plans. It helps you solve problems, imagine possible futures, and helps control your emotions.

Parietal lobe

The parietal lobe is responsible for sensation. It integrates all the sensory information in your body, including touch, pressure, and pain. Orientation and language processing also happens here.

Occipital lobe

The occipital lobe is in charge of visual processing, discerning colors, and so on.

Temporal lobe

The temporal lobe is responsible for the perception of speech (hearing) and memory.

occipital lobe definition

What Is The Occipital Lobe Definition?

The occipital lobe works in tandem with the other lobes of the brain to help us understand and interact with our environment.

This lobe can be defined as the visual processing center of the brain. Occipital, from the Latin occiput, means “back of the skull.” This pertains to the location of the occpital lobe in the brain.

Where Is The Occipital Lobe And What Does It Do?

The occipital lobe was so named for its position at (you guessed it!) the back of the head. It’s located right at the base of our neck, in the bottom portion of the skull under the parietal lobe.

It’s sits over the cerebellum separated by dura mater. The boundaries of the lobes are not clearly defined so they are navigated and named by the bones that cover them.

As the brain has two hemispheres, the lobes do too. They function together, interacting with one another.

The occipital lobe has several components.  Each is responsible for a different aspect of visual processing, including depth, size, location, color, and movement.

Together with the other parts of the brain, the occipital lobe helps you to perceive the world around you.

Reading comprehension, recognizing colors, shapes, and sizes, understanding distance and movement – all of this would be impossible without the help of the occipital lobe.

What Is The Responsibility Of The Occipital Lobe?

As we’ve already mentioned, the occipital lobe helps us process visual stimuli. Sight begins in your eyes. Then, the information travels to the primary visual cortex through neural pathways. This is where the perception starts with recognizing colors and location.

Then, it sends information to the ventral stream, which is responsible for understanding ‘what’ we are seeing. Without it, we would see, but wouldn’t be able to understand or define the object.

After perceiving the visual stimuli, the occipital lobe sends the information to the frontal lobe and parietal lobe.

The frontal lobe is in charge of deciphering the information. The parietal lobe helps us react to what we are seeing.

The most incredible part? All of this happens within milliseconds!

It is not about mental intelligence, it is about mental fitness

—Jim Kwik, the author of Mindvalley’s Superbrain Program

occipital lobes

What Would Happen If The Occipital Lobe Was Damaged?

The most obvious problem that could occur as a result of occipital lobe damage is blindness. This type of blindness can occur even if the eyes are healthy.

The visual information comes through the retina (the eyes watch) but the brain can’t process it (the brain doesn’t see). In less drastic cases, vision loss is partial — it’s like having holes in your vision.

In addition to full or partial blindness, some epileptic seizures are a consequence of the damage in this area of a brain. These seizures can result in visual hallucinations.

Additionally, some other problems that occur with damage to the occipital lobe are the inability to differentiate colors (color agnosia), recognize shapes, faces, and objects, read written words (agraphia), or perceive that an object is moving (movement agnosia).

The brain is truly a wondrous creation. All four lobes of the brain work together to help us to function perfectly. They do this without our conscious direction and all these incredible processes happen in mere seconds.

But the brain isn’t just a powerful tool. It’s also a muscle. And you can improve the power of your brain by exercising it.

To strengthen your occipital lobe and use it to its full potential, try exercising it by exposing yourself to various visual stimuli. Why  not watch a 3D movie or play a VR game to challenge your visual processing? You’ll be having fun and powering up your brain all at the same time!

What’s your favorite way to challenge your occipital lobe? Let us know it the comments below.

Stefan Mitrovic

Stefan Mitrovic

"Nula dies sine linea" is what best describes Stefan.
A constant seeker for new ideas with interest in anything and everything. Trivia master and adventurer at heart, he is a true space cadet.

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