Frontal lobe brain injuries have a wide variety of symptoms.
These can range from problems with muscle movements all the way to personality changes.
Whether it’s you or a loved one who has suffered a frontal lobe injury, it can be frightening to deal with the changes that follow.
That’s why today we’re breaking down everything you need to know about frontal lobe brain injury recovery.
We’ll show you what changes you can expect after a frontal lobe injury, and what steps to take to help aid your recovery.
But first, let’s start by explaining what the frontal lobe is and what it does.
What Is the Frontal Lobe?
As the name suggests, the frontal lobe is located in the front of your brain, near your forehead.
This lobe controls voluntary muscle movements and higher cognitive functions; however, it’s important to realize it doesn’t do everything on its own.
The frontal lobe works together with other lobes to control overall functions. As a result, it’s inaccurate to attribute any particular action to a single brain region.
We wanted to clear this up in the beginning, because frontal lobe damage often strikes at the very heart of what makes a person unique.
It can affect your talents, memories, and even your personality.
But as devastating as these effects are, they are not necessarily permanent, precisely because every region of the brain works together in ways we still don’t fully understand.
In fact, it’s possible for the brain to “rewire” itself to compensate for an injury to the frontal lobe and allow undamaged areas to take over a function!
Therefore, even if you’ve suffered damage to the frontal lobe, this doesn’t automatically mean you have permanently lost an ability controlled by that area.
Now that we’ve explained that, we’re ready to explore what exactly the frontal lobe is chiefly responsible for.
What Does the Frontal Lobe Do?
The frontal lobe helps control many higher cognitive functions and daily living activities.
Again, this doesn’t make the frontal lobe the only part of the brain involved in a certain action. It only means it plays a major role.
Some activities the frontal lobe controls include:
- Speech and Language The left half of the frontal lobe (called Broca’s area) helps formulate thoughts into words and put them together into complete sentences. Other parts of the frontal lobe also help with language skills.
- Motor skills. The frontal lobe is home to the primary motor cortex, a region that generates neural impulses to control muscle movement. It’s what allows you to walk, run, and do pretty much any physical activity.
- Executive functioning. The frontal lobe plays a critical role in a person’s ability to plan ahead, make decisions, manage their needs and juggle multiple tasks at once. It also plays a big role in the ability to pay attention and focus on one thing at a time.
- Empathy and Social skills. The frontal lobe helps us empathize and understand others’ feelings.
An injury to the frontal lobe can affect all these abilities and others. We’ll look at those next.
Effects of Frontal Lobe Brain Injury and How to Treat them
The symptoms of frontal lobe damage can vary greatly, depending on the extent of the injury and which part of the lobe is damaged.
In general, frontal lobe injuries will result in cognitive and behavioral changes, though there can be physical difficulties as well.
Here are some of the most common effects of frontal lobe brain injury and how to treat them.
Memory and Attention Problems
Frontal lobe injuries can greatly affect a person’s ability to pay attention, and can even make it hard for them to form long-term memories.
The best way to treat these issues once again involves engaging neuroplasticity, this time with cognitive therapy exercises that focus on improving attention and memory skills.
Reduced Motor Skills and Spatial Reasoning
Damage to the frontal lobe can result in problems with motor skills such as walking or using hands to eat.
It can also affect spatial reasoning, which means it can be harder to visualize what an object would look like when rotated.
To treat these issues, you’re going to need to activate your brain’s neuroplasticity. This will allow other, undamaged portions of the brain to take control of some frontal lobe functions.
The best way to engage neuroplasticity is through massed practice exercises (high repetition) that target the action you want to improve.
So for example, if your grip is weak, practicing grip strengthening exercises is the best way to improve it!
Frontal lobe damage can also result in loss of executive function skills. This includes:
- Problems initiating, organizing, and carrying out activities
- Poor problem solving skills
- Difficulty adjusting behavior and handling a change of plans
Treating executive dysfunction requires an individualized approach from a neuropsychologist. The most important factor in treatment is to help the person realize the effects their injury has had on them.
Once they realize the extent of their injury, they will be able to learn therapies that can help them manage their deficits, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.
Sudden Changes in Behavior and/or Personality
Because the frontal lobe helps govern your emotions and impulses, damage to the frontal lobe can make it harder for a person to control their anger and aggression.
Depending on the severity, an injury can either exaggerate a person’s natural temperament, or it can completely alter their personality.
For example, a normally agreeable and happy person may suddenly become extremely angry and irritable after their injury.
These personality changes are perhaps the toughest challenges to overcome during frontal lobe brain injury recovery.
It’s important to recognize that these changes are not your fault, they are only a side effect of your injury. Therefore, it is crucial for friends and family to be patient and help you cope with the changes you are experiencing.
Treating the Effects of Frontal Lobe Brain Injury
While there is no way to completely reverse all personality and behavioral changes, you can take steps to minimize their negative effects and regain control over your emotions again.
Step 1. Understand your behavior.
Learning which things tend to trigger your negative emotions or actions can help you manage your mood better.
For example, maybe you notice you get easily angered when you are hungry. Try setting an alarm to remind you to eat. This will help you avoid anger and stay in control.
This process of identifying what triggers your negative behavior and using coping methods to handle them is called insight-oriented psychotherapy, which can be very helpful for people with frontal lobe injuries.
A neuropsychologist is probably the best person to teach you all the ways you can implement this therapy into your daily life.
If you can’t afford to see a therapist though, the next best thing is to find someone, preferably a close family member or friend, who can help you identify all your issues in a non-judgmental way. Which leads to our next step:
Step 2. Let people in.
Don’t try to manage your emotional difficulties on your own, because it won’t work. Nobody can solve all their issues alone.
Let your family, friends and even your coworkers (if you feel comfortable with them) know about the problems you are having and ask for their support in brainstorming ways to help you cope.
This will help prevent the feelings of isolation and depression that often accompany a TBI, and will give you a lot of constructive feedback on your behavior.
Step 3. Stay positive.
As hard as this can be at times, it’s important to maintain a positive outlook. This doesn’t mean you have to feel happy all the time. We all know that’s impossible, even without a brain injury!
Instead, just don’t be too hard on yourself and mentally beat yourself up if you have a bad moment, because this will only exaggerate your negative feelings. Recognize that while there will be some bad days, that does not make you a bad person.
This one isn’t technically speaking a direct effect of frontal lobe brain damage, but it is something many experience after a brain injury.
Ambiguous loss refers to a loss that occurs without closure or any of the typical markers that accompany grief.
The term was coined by psychologist Pauline Boss who described it as a “physical presence but psychological absence” such as in cases of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. It also frequently accompanies traumatic brain injury, especially frontal lobe damage.
Because frontal lobe damage often results in personality changes, the people closest to the injured person may feel like they have lost their loved one, even though they technically are still alive.
This can lead to a complex blend of grief and guilt; grief for the loss of the person they once knew, and guilt for feeling that way when that person is still alive.
Ambiguous loss can also affect the person with the injury, especially when they have not come to terms with their new way of life.
Unresolved ambiguous grief leads to many emotional problems and makes it nearly impossible to move forward with recovery.
That’s why it’s important to seek counseling to acknowledge your feelings to each other.
Resolving the feelings associated with ambiguous loss is an important first step that allows both you and your loved ones to come to terms with the trauma you both experienced, and finally find ways to move forward.
Frontal Lobe Brain Injury Recovery: A Summary
A frontal lobe brain injury recovery can cause many difficulties. Not only does it make certain cognitive activities much harder, it can also cause serious emotional problems and personality changes.
But while we don’t want to sugar coat the difficulties you may experience, it’s important to not lose hope!
Thanks to the brain’s amazing ability to heal and rewire itself, there is always a possibility of recovery if you persevere with the right therapy, even in the most severe cases.
However, in order to make a successful recovery, ambiguous loss must be dealt with first.
It’s important for both the person with the brain injury and their families not to bury or ignore their feelings, but instead find healthy ways to come to terms with the effects of traumatic brain injury.
Traumatic brain injuries change people; they can change both the person with the injury and the people closest to them. Neither you nor your loved ones will ever be exactly who you were before the injury, and that’s ok.
All you can do is decide your response to your injury, and take the necessary steps to begin your recovery. We hope this guide to frontal lobe brain injury recovery will help you do just that.