How Dementia Affects The Brain
Dementia is not kind to the brain. However, most people believe dementia destroys the entire brain at once. Actually, dementia only focuses on three of the six major regions of the brain. To understand the destruction of dementia you must understand each of the lobes which could be affected and then the functions carried out by that portion of the brain. Different types of dementia damage specific regions of the brain while leaving other regions untouched. For example, Alzhemier’s is a type of dementia but it usually only ravages the memory which is located in the temporal lobe.
The Frontal Lobe
The frontal lobe is the largest lobe of the brain. It located at the forehead back to about the mid-skull. Within this lobe are several areas each with their own function. Interestingly, the region which holds our ability to speak, called Broca’s area, is only about the size of a quarter. When dementia ravages a person’s ability to speak only a very small portion of the brain has been damaged. The frontal lobe is also responsible for concentration, impulse control, judgment, planning, decision making, sense of self, personality and higher level thinking such as playing chess.
The Temporal Lobe
The temporal lobe is located in a front to back strip above the ears starting at the eye and back to behind the ears on each side of the head. As mentioned above Alzheimer’s disease usually goes to work on the long-term memory which is located in this area. However this lobe is also responsible for understanding speech, sequencing, organization, processing visual and auditory information; the formation of new memory; and all the functions associated with sound and hearing. Dementia affecting this area can produce hallucinations and is responsible other common symptoms of dementia such as deafness, apathy, or the inability to recognize the faces of family members.
The Parietal Lobe
The parietal lobe is sits above the temporal lobe and behind the frontal lobe. The parietal lobe is much more highly specialized than the temporal or frontal lobes. It is the sensory computer, if you will, so it processes taste, touch, pressure, and temperature. The parietal lobe also receives visual stimuli and coordinates the appropriate motor response as in seeing a ball being thrown and knowing to raise the arm to catch it. However it also is responsible for processing numbers and the use of objects such as opening a pill bottle or using a can opener.
As dementia damages these specific areas of the brain, the patient’s ability to function is diminished accordingly with other functions left similar to those who do not have dementia. The myriad of ways dementia can attack the brain is why a wide variety of outcomes can be observed in patients with the same type of dementia. Unfortunately, it can also lead to difficulties in recognizing dementia in the earliest stages. If you or someone you know seems to be affected by dementia a proper assessment and early intervention is best.