Dealing with dementia symptoms:

Temporal lobe damage

Created date

June 27th, 2019
“[The temporal lobe’s] primary role is to integrate and interpret sensory input, both audio and visual. It also plays a significant role in several other functions, such as language, memory, and spatial navigation.”

“[The temporal lobe’s] primary role is to integrate and interpret sensory input, both audio and visual. It also plays a significant role in several other functions, such as language, memory, and spatial navigation.”

Many factors can be responsible for symptoms that develop due to dementia-related illness. Some symptoms, however, develop because of damage in specific areas of the brain.

Research shows that there may be certain strategies that work better than others when a person responds to a particular situation or stimulus with physical or verbal actions and/or expressions due to these changes. That’s because each region of the brain is responsible for certain functions. 

In this four-part series, you’ll learn about how the brain works and evidence-based strategies that may help caregivers cope with loved ones who have suffered strokes or who have Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or other dementia-related illnesses. 

The basic four

The brain has two hemispheres, each of which is divided into four lobes: frontal, parietal, occipital, and, the focus of this article, temporal. Each lobe performs the bulk of several functions. 

In a nutshell, the frontal lobe’s main functions are regulating emotions, planning, reasoning, and problem solving. The parietal lobe processes sensory information, including touch, temperature, pressure, and pain. The occipital lobe is responsible for visual processing. 

Function of the temporal lobe

“The temporal lobe is located near the base of the brain—directly behind the temples,” says Cara Skrypchuk, director of memory support services for Erickson Living. “Its primary role is to integrate and interpret sensory input, both audio and visual. It also plays a significant role in several other functions, such as language, memory, and spatial navigation.”

Skrypchuk notes that changes in the temporal lobe are responsible for many classic dementia symptoms. “Because the temporal lobe receives sensory information from the ears, such as sounds and speech, it affects someone’s ability to make sense of sounds, pitches, and meaningful speech. 

“It also affects actions and expressions related to language comprehension, social interactions, and a person’s ability to express themselves,” she adds.

Temporal lobe damage can be manifested in many ways. “A caregiver may notice that their loved one seems to give delayed responses to questions, have word-finding issues, or forgets their children’s names,” Skrypchuk says. 

Caregivers may also notice their loved one seems to have changes in their personality or react to situations differently than they used to. “Certain personality traits are produced in the temporal lobe,” Skrypchuk explains, “so you may notice an increase in irritability or agitation.”

Dealing with symptoms of temporal lobe damage

Because the senses are altered, it is important to reduce sensory overload. “Eliminate background noise,” Skrypchuk advises. “Turning off the television, the radio, or other background noise can help a person focus on a conversation and stay involved.”

The ability to process information is affected, thus several strategies can reduce the rate at which information reaches the brain. “Slow down your rate of speech,” Skrypchuk says. “That can help someone understand what you are trying to say.”

Prepare for long pauses. “Allow time for them to understand and respond,” Skrypchuk says. “Sometimes this can take much longer than you expect. Although they may struggle to find a word, ask for permission before you begin to help. Disrupting someone’s train of thought can cause more frustration.”

Be an attentive listener. “Focus on what your loved one says, not on what they don’t say,” Skrypchuk explains. 

Show respect. “Speak in a normal manner and address your loved one as an adult,” Skrypchuk says. “At the same time, keep sentences to single thoughts and break instructions down into small, simple steps.”

Try nonverbal ways to communicate. “Use visual cues such as pointing, hand gestures, and pictures,” Skrypchuk advises. “Try pen and paper to draw, sketch, or even write out a message.  

“The rate and type of temporal lobe damage varies from person to person,” Skrypchuk says. “Sometimes a message needs to be delivered in multiple ways, and there can be a lot of trial and error.”

Next month’s article will focus on frontal lobe changes.

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