What is Frontal Lobe Syndrome and What Causes It?

Frontal Lobe Syndrome

Have you (or a loved one) experienced a sudden change in personality? Have you noticed inappropriate social behavior, impulsivity, or emotional outbursts that are out of character? These could be signs of a disorder that most people have never heard of: frontal lobe syndrome.

WHAT ARE THE FRONTAL LOBES?

The human brain is a very delicate but vastly complex organ that is involved in everything we think, say, do, believe, and create. It is comprised of 200 billion neurons (a type of brain cell) and many distinct, but interconnected structures each of which provides a vital and necessary role in our human experience.

The outermost portion of the brain is called the cerebral cortex—often referred to as grey matter. It is divided into four major sections: the frontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital lobes. Of these, the frontal lobe is the largest and is comprised of the prefrontal cortex and the motor cortices (plural for cortex). The frontal lobes are responsible for a wide range of higher-level functions, including:

  • Forethought, planning, and rational thinking
  • Insight and empathy
  • Judgment and impulse control
  • Emotional and behavioral regulation
  • Decision-making
  • Analytical thinking and logic
  • Speech and written language
  • Sense of smell and taste
  • Intentional body movements
  • Creativity and imagination
  • …And more

A healthy frontal lobe is paramount for personal autonomy, appropriate social behavior, good interpersonal relationships, information processing, and success in life. However, the brain’s fragile texture makes it vulnerable to damage. When this happens in the frontal lobes, a person may start acting and thinking differently and get diagnosed with what is called frontal lobe syndrome.

When the brain’s frontal lobes are damaged, a person may start acting and thinking differently and get diagnosed with what is called 'frontal lobe syndrome.' Click To Tweet

COMMON CAUSES OF FRONTAL LOBE SYNDROME 

There are numerous ways the function of the frontal lobes can be disrupted. Some of the more common causes of this are:

Traumatic Brain Injury:

The frontal lobes are one of the two brain areas most often damaged in head injuries. The more severe the injury, the greater the number of symptoms and problems a person will likely develop. The famous case of Phineas Gage, although a dramatic example, is a good illustration of what can happen to this part of the brain after a serious injury.

In the mid-1800s, Mr. Gage was a popular and affable man who worked installing new railroad tracks. One day while using a long tamping iron to pack down explosive powder, the powder ignited and caused the tamping iron to shoot through his cheek, brain, and the top of his skull, exiting completely and landing on the ground. Although he lost one eye from the incident, he survived physically. His personality, however, was a different story. The accident transformed him from being a well-liked citizen into a rude, inconsiderate, irritable, profane, and poorly behaved man. The tamping rod had significantly damaged his frontal lobes.

Cerebrovascular Disease and Stroke:

We have blood vessels—capillaries, veins, and arteries—throughout our body and brain. A disease called atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) is caused by the buildup of plaque and other substances in the arterial walls. This is often the result of high cholesterol, hypertension, insulin resistance, inflammation, or tobacco use, among other health problems. Over time, the arteries become stiff, brittle, and vulnerable to rupture, and plaques can obstruct the flow of blood in the brain. Both processes can cause a stroke, which can occur in many areas of the brain, including the frontal lobes. The resulting damage will depend on the severity and location of the stroke.

Brain Tumors:

A cancerous or benign tumor growing inside the brain or under the skull can destroy or damage cells, put pressure on brain tissues, or cause a buildup of fluid inside the skull and/or brain. Frontal lobe tumors can interfere with the way this part of the brain works.

Neurodegenerative Diseases and Other Conditions:

Although they are usually classified under their own disease category, many neurodegenerative processes can alter frontal lobe function. For instance, vascular dementia, which results from the aforementioned damage to blood vessels in the brain, is thought to be one of the more common causes of frontal lobe symptoms. Other forms of dementia as well as degenerative neurological conditions such as Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease can deteriorate the frontal lobes. And, while not necessarily degenerative, brain infections and frontal lobe epilepsy can also affect behavior, movement, and thinking processes associated with this part of the brain.

SYMPTOMS OF FRONTAL LOBE SYNDROME

Because of their diverse functions and critical connectivity to other parts of the brain, injury to the frontal lobes can cause significant changes in the way a person behaves, thinks, and is able to function. In any individual, the symptoms that emerge will reflect the damage to the specific frontal lobe structures that have been impacted by injury or disease, and can include any of these:

  • Personality changes
  • Loss of motivation or inability to initiate self-directed activities
  • Apathy
  • Poor judgment
  • Inappropriate or risky behavior
  • Lack of impulse control
  • Frequent and/or intense emotional outbursts
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Increased or decreased interest in sex
  • Difficulty with problem solving and concentration
  • Disorganization and distractibility
  • Loss of sense of smell and/or taste
  • Problems speaking or writing
  • Falling down or difficulty with motor movements, such as walking or picking up objects
  • Weakness on one side of the face or body

While many of these symptoms are seen in other mental health or medical disorders, when someone develops frontal lobe syndrome, these symptoms will be new for them. In other words, prior to the injury or disease, they were not noticeable concerns or were related to a previously diagnosed problem for which the symptoms have worsened since the damage occurred.

TREATMENT FOR FRONTAL LOBE SYNDROME

In addition to any medications or surgical procedures necessary for addressing the underlying cause of symptoms, treatment strategies for frontal lobe syndrome vary depending on the type and degree of damage to the brain. For example, when the motor areas are affected, physical rehabilitation can help someone build strength and function to the extent possible or learn alternative ways of moving. Other types of treatment may include:

  • Speech and language therapy to improve an individual’s ability to communicate, if those functions have been damaged
  • Occupational therapy to help a person develop or improve their ability to engage in everyday activities, such as getting dressed and cleaning their teeth
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy to identify negative thinking patterns, reduce impulsivity, and manage appropriate social behavior

In addition, many people can benefit from making healthy dietary changes. Switching from a high-sugar, high-fat, processed-food diet to one that has clean and lean protein sources, plenty of fresh produce and foods that are high in omega-3s (such as salmon, walnuts, and chia and flax seeds) can help to support brain function and the recovery process.

Brain injuries, concussions, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

16 Comments »

  1. I have been diagnosed with frontal lobe damage.

    Comment by Carol Turk — June 22, 2022 @ 3:23 AM

  2. Thank you for this insight into frontal lobe syndrome. I’d like to ask, after learning from a neighbor about her daughter who injured her head, having a build-up of calcium deposits in her pineal gland. The doctors told the mother that they saw that commonly. Just how common is that according to your research? I think that issue deserves some serious attention, given the amount of violent behavior occurring around the country. Thank you for any attention you can give to this issue.

    Comment by Susan Miller — June 22, 2022 @ 3:34 AM

  3. How do you check to see if you a front lobe problem? I have epilepsy and now also a chat to malformation of my. Brain due to a accident.

    Comment by Denise — June 22, 2022 @ 3:50 AM

  4. Mother and sister died of Alzheimer’s/ dementia, brothers are older then me (76) . We have are moments, mine were never the best for remembering etc. I have prostate cancer now and being treated at Provisions Proton care in Knoxville,Tn. Viet Nam Vet. unfortunately th)e VA doesn’t cover the cost. Try your 4 caps a day memory and focus pills. ( too many pills) didn’t see much improvement. Thought about your brain scan’s to recognizing problems but don’t thing I could afford the cost of the treatments. Subscribe to your diets and read up on your sites like this one and carrie on for now. Anything else that may help, keep in touch. Ray

    Comment by Ray Pavlik — June 22, 2022 @ 4:32 AM

  5. Can this happen to someone who has had an aneurysm in that area?

    Comment by Cheryl Binkenstein Torrez — June 22, 2022 @ 4:52 AM

  6. I left this comment before I read the 7 Neuropsychiatric Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. I can relate to some of them. I also take a XYWAY oral solution from Jazz Pharmaceuticals, being treating for narcolepsy /cataplexy. Your brain scans research on people to get diagnosed, do you take volunteer’s?
    Ray Pavlik

    Comment by Ray Pavlik — June 22, 2022 @ 4:55 AM

  7. My husband was diagnosed with frontal lobe 16 years ago. He slowly deteriorated until he was difficult to manage in a home setting. He was placed in Long term care a couple of months ago. He has adapted quite well to the environment, just last week he didn’t know who I was. That was a shock since we’ve been married since 1966. I have very mixed feelings of relief and guilt but am relieved he is in a good LTC.

    Comment by Ann Wrage — June 22, 2022 @ 5:51 AM

  8. I would think “meditation” would be helpful as well. Especially, since meditation increases the connection to the PFC and has been shown to be beneficial to the brain.

    Comment by Steven Bulcroft — June 22, 2022 @ 6:06 AM

  9. My head concussion was in January 2021 was doing better for a while but got Covid in April 2021 for 2 weeks very sick, was recovering then on September we found out my husband had stage 5 kidney failure he died 2 weeks ago, he gave it a good fight, I’m thankful to our Jesus is pain free. So much stress but thankful our God as carried us all the way. Thank you for your help 🙏

    Comment by Iris — June 22, 2022 @ 6:44 AM

  10. Very informative, appreciate the help. I have 2 brain aneurysms & stroke & previous severe concussion. Was paralyzed on left side from stroke. I have 2 brain stents. Still have left side balance, 2 falls resulting in broken arm & ankle surgery.

    Comment by Julie — June 22, 2022 @ 8:51 AM

  11. I endured a frontal lobe injury at age 11…and broke my two front teeth into a v shape break. I hit my head in a bike accident at 11 and at 58 I hit my head hard when I was washing an RV and came up and hit my left temporal lobe twice. It’s never been looked at..I have those symptoms..anxiety with no appetite and poor bones now. I use a parasympathetic essential oil blend to turn it back on. I’ve experienced fight or flight from emotional neglect and abuse from controllers. I think I’m experiencing a brain injury. And my temporal lobe I hit stays sore to the touch. I also had a door hit me hard in the front lobe on right side where that side of the face bruised around my eye. I will get insurance in September or October and come see you. I’m interested in your supplements as well like dopamine and serotonin but want your opinion first. I know without seeing my brain you cant say for sure, but I feel sick everyday because I’m weak. I eat certain foods vegetables and fish and beef and chicken but cant stand strong smells. I was a normal healthy 125 lb woman in 2013..menopause for a year in 2014..no libido or ability for sex, anxiety and no one to talk to. In 2017 under mental distress /abuse I lost to 108 lbs, malnourished and in 2022 I’m still in that mode. The oil helps but it’s not enough. Thank you for being here.

    Comment by Polly Nunnally — June 22, 2022 @ 9:21 AM

  12. Our son just passed away at age 35. He had a massive frontal lobe TBI as a passenger in a car at age 18..his life was very difficult due to this injury..he had most of the symptoms listed for a frontal lobe injury.

    Comment by Gloria Ritenour — June 22, 2022 @ 9:42 AM

  13. I had a brain bleed in the frontal lobe in 2004. Notice changes in everything.

    Comment by Margaret Plummer — June 22, 2022 @ 11:09 AM

  14. I have had several of these symptoms since I had a golfball-sized benign brain tumor removed from the middle of my brain at the age of 13 and a half. I am now 35. I also suffered a stroke at that age. I try my hardest to be a normal human being, but who’s to say what is normal? Having a benign astrocytoma on my pituitary gland changed my life.

    Comment by Laura — June 22, 2022 @ 4:06 PM

  15. The article mentioned smoking but how about chronic alcohol use and marijuana abuse. I have a family member with bizarre behavior patterns refusing to get help and I feel those behavioral issues are related to the above mentioned.

    Comment by Maude Carolle Desilus — June 23, 2022 @ 10:43 AM

  16. Husband (82), with APOE3/4, worked with FNP and did Dr Bredesen's ReCode program for the 9 month program ending 2/22. He (we) worked hard with good results. It was an exciting challenge, so educational and so worth it. Now, 8 months later, I (retired RN who worked in long term care/dementia setting for 10 years before retiring) am seeing signs of Frontal Lobe Syndrome that are concerning. I have been the team player/ partner in ReCode program and now stretched to being dementia caregiver to a man who is still actively involved in church (he is retired pastor with many gifts) . His impulse control and behaviors issues a problem. I need help!

    Comment by Jean Parsons — October 21, 2022 @ 3:33 PM

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