If you have trouble calculating math problems after brain injury, you may have experienced parietal lobe damage.
Besides mathematical skills, parietal lobe damage also affects many aspects of a person’s ability to process their senses.
In this article, we’re covering all the major symptoms of parietal lobe damage and some of the best ways to treat it.
We’ll start with an overview of the parietal lobe’s main functions.
Understanding Parietal Lobe Damage
The parietal lobe’s main job is to interpret sensory information from the body. It’s the reason you can feel heat when you touch a stove, for example.
It also performs several other important functions, including:
- Processing numbers
- Maintaining a sense of direction
- Storing spatial memories
- Helping you know the position of the parts of your body (proprioception)
It also plays a part in language comprehension and writing.
All this explains why parietal lobe damage can have a serious impact on a person’s life, even if the injury itself is only mild.
Symptoms of Parietal Lobe Damage
The following are the major symptoms of parietal lobe damage:
Since parietal lobe damage results in problems with perception, it can sometimes lead to people losing the ability to tell their right from left.
This condition is not limited to those with brain injury however. One study estimated that around 15% of the general population shares this problem.
There is no real treatment for left-right confusion. However, there are compensatory tactics you can use to manage it.
For example, if you make an L-shape with your thumb and index finger on each hand, the one that actually looks like the letter L is your left hand.
Inability to Write
Damage to your parietal lobe can also cause difficulties with writing.
In particular, it makes it much harder to write down what you hear, and to read out loud what you wrote.
This disorder is known as agraphia.
Sometimes the person with agraphia simply mixes up their letters and write sloppily.
Sometimes they lose the ability to make the right physical movements when writing.
And sometimes they forget how to write entirely.
This disability does not affect the person’s intelligence. They know what they want to say, they just literally can’t put the words down on paper.
The best way to treat agraphia is through intensive therapy.
If you have trouble making the correct hand movements, repeatedly practicing the movement under the guidance of a therapist is the best way to regain writing skills.
The repetitive motion will activate neuroplasticity, your brain’s mechanism for rewiring itself.
As you practice the motion, new neural pathways are formed. The more you practice, the more these pathways are reinforced until finally the action becomes much easier!
To help treat the spelling issues that accompany agraphia, the best thing you can do is use a spell check program or a dictionary to make sure your spelling is correct. Then practice writing the correct spelling over and over.
The sensory cortex, the part of the brain that receives nerve signals that we interpret as touch, temperature and pain, is located in the parietal lobe.
This means that parietal lobe damage can lead to several different sensory problems.
These problems include:
- Trouble feeling hot and cold
Damage to the parietal lobe can also make you unable to detect the location of what is touching you. You feel something, you just don’t if it’s touching you on the head or foot.
Another sensory problem you can experience after a parietal lobe injury is called astereognosis.
This is where you cannot identify an object, even a familiar one like a TV remote, by touch. Instead you must rely on your vision (which is mainly controlled by the temporal and occipital lobes).
To treat sensory problems, you’ll once again need to engage neuroplasticity through repetition.
Practicing sensory re-education exercises can retrain your brain to interpret different sensations again.
The more consistently you practice those exercises, the sooner you will recover your senses.
Vision and Perception Problems
While vision and perception are usually considered functions of the occipital and temporal lobe, the parietal lobe also plays an important role in vision.
This is because the nerve fibers that carry visual information must pass through the parietal lobe on their way to the occipital lobe.
If the parietal lobe is damaged, those nerve signals can’t travel as easily.
Parietal lobe damage mostly make it much harder to process certain visual information such as length and depth.
This leads to poor hand-eye coordination and balance, and several other eye problems.
In severe cases, the person can experience something called hemispatial neglect, which is where they lose awareness of one entire side of their body.
Some people with this type of neglect don’t even realize the arm on their neglected side is their own.
Scanning therapy can be used to treat many traumatic brain injury eye problems, including hemispatial neglect.
This therapy attempts to force a person to pay attention to their neglected side by retraining their eyes to scan their surroundings more efficiently.
Parietal lobe damage also causes issues with proprioception.
Proprioception is the ability to sense, without seeing, the position and movement of your body.
It’s the reason you can stand and walk without looking down at your feet all the time, for example.
With parietal lobe damage, sometimes this sense can be damaged. As a result, some people lose the ability to detect the movement of certain parts of their body like their arms or legs.
Some proprioceptive problems can be treated with therapy exercises.
For example, balance exercises can be helpful to regain a sense of how your body moves.
And juggling can greatly improve your hand-eye coordination and several other abilities.
Tai Chi and yoga can also strengthen the proprioceptive skills.
You still may need to use compensatory strategies though, even if you are doing therapy. One of the most fundamental strategies you can use is to look at the limb you want to use. This will make it much easier to move without mistakes.
Finally, parietal lobe damage can result in Gerstmann syndrome, which is where several of the symptoms of parietal lobe listed above coincide. These symptoms are:
- Left-right confusion
- Mathematical difficulties
Gerstromm syndrome can also include anosognosia, which is the inability to recognize that you have a physical or mental deficit.
Anosognosia can be a particularly devastating condition after brain injury because it makes it almost impossible for a person to participate in therapy willingly.
As a result, their recovery is severely slowed down, and they may even decline.
The other symptoms of Gerstmann syndrome can be managed with the help of speech and occupational therapy, but anosognosia is a much more complicated problem.
Because it is a neurological disorder and not a psychological one, trying to persuade the person that they have deficits will be ineffective.
The best thing you can do is offer some compelling reasons to try physical therapy or take a medication, apart from the fact that they have a disability.
For example, try telling them that going to therapy will make them able to live by themselves, or will make them even stronger, or some other clear benefit. If they won’t listen to you, try having a doctor or someone else tell them these things.
This might just give them enough motivation to do what they need to do to recover.
Parietal Lobe Injuries
Parietal lobe damage can greatly limit your ability to experience sensations.
But because they don’t usually involve any physical weakness or cognitive issues, parietal lobe injuries have a much higher potential for a good recovery than other types of brain injuries.
You may have trouble sensing your arm, but since you can still move it, you can participate in the right therapies that can help you regain sensation.
Even if your injury is severe though, because of your brain’s natural ability to adapt and heal, you always have hope of recovering what you lost, as long as you continue with therapy.
We hope this guide to parietal lobe damage helps you find the right treatment you need to make a full recovery.