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Frontal Lobe Stroke: Causes, Side Effects, and Recovery

3-d image of brain experiencing a frontal lobe stroke

The frontal lobe is the largest lobe in the brain. It handles most of our higher cognitive functions, including language and memory. Therefore, a frontal lobe stroke can be particularly difficult to treat if you don’t know where to start.

You’re about to learn what to expect from a frontal lobe stroke and how to promote a successful recovery. Let’s begin.

Frontal Lobe Functions

The frontal lobe is part of the brain’s cerebral cortex. It is made up of two paired lobes known as the left and right frontal cortex.

Together, these lobes comprise almost two-thirds of the brain and help control many functions that are uniquely human.

Some activities that the frontal lobe controls include:

  • Speech and Language The left half of the frontal lobe helps form thoughts 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 controls muscle movement. It’s what allows you to walk, run, and do pretty much any physical activity you can think of.
  • Executive functioning. The frontal lobe plays a critical role in a person’s ability to plan, make decisions, manage their needs, and juggle multiple tasks at once. It also plays a big role in attention and concentration.
  • Empathy and social skills. The frontal lobe helps us empathize and understand the feelings of others.

A frontal lobe stroke can affect all these abilities and more.

Causes of Frontal Lobe Stroke

illustration of causes of frontal lobe stroke

Frontal lobe strokes are caused by a loss of blood flow in the arteries that supply nutrients to the brain. These arteries include:

  • The internal carotid artery
  • The middle cerebral artery
  • The anterior cerebral artery

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel becomes clogged by a blood clot (ischemic stroke) or when it bursts (hemorrhagic stroke).

Typically, a frontal lobe stroke only affects the left or right hemispheres individually. That’s because each side receives blood from separate arteries.

Signs of a Stroke

Ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes require vastly different treatments. Therefore, it is critical to receive a medical examination to determine what type of stroke is occurring.

Some general signs of a stroke that you should be aware of include:

  • Facial drooping
  • Sudden vision impairment
  • Arm or leg weakness
  • Inability to speak
  • Sudden numbness
  • Confusion
  • Headache

If a loved one displays any of these signs, get to the emergency room as soon as possible. The best way to minimize damage after stroke is to restore blood flow to the brain through medical intervention.  

Side Effects of Frontal Lobe Stroke

A frontal lobe stroke can produce a wide variety of symptoms.

Here are some of the most common symptoms of frontal lobe stroke:

Reduced Motor Skills and Spatial Reasoning

therapist stretching the leg of a patient with muscle weakness after frontal lobe stroke

The primary motor cortex resides in the frontal lobe and controls voluntary movement.

If a stroke occurs in the primary motor cortex, it can cause conditions known as hemiparesis and hemiplegia.

Hemiparesis refers to general weakness on one side of the body. Hemiplegia causes complete paralysis on one side.

Each side of the motor cortex controls the opposite side of the body. Therefore, if your left side is weak, the stroke most likely occurred in the right frontal lobe.

Other muscular problems a frontal lobe stroke can cause include:

  • Swallowing problems (dysphagia)
  •  Difficulty coordinating movement (ataxia)
  • Inability to control urination (incontinence)

Frontal lobe stroke can also affect spatial reasoning. This means it can be harder to visualize what an object would look like when rotated.

Vascular Dementia

Frontal lobe damage can also result in vascular dementia. This term refers to a loss of several important cognitive skills. Symptoms of vascular dementia include:

  • Problems initiating, organizing, and carrying out activities
  • Poor problem-solving and decision-making skills
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Impulsivity
  • Memory loss
  • Attention and concentration problems
  •  Difficulty adjusting behavior and handling a change of plans

Treating vascular dementia will require an individualized approach from a neuropsychologist.

Sudden Changes in Behavior and/or Personality

The frontal lobe helps govern emotions and impulses. This means a frontal lobe stroke can make it harder for a person to control their anger and aggression.

For example, a normally easy-going person can become easily irritated after a frontal lobe stroke.

These personality changes are perhaps the toughest challenges to overcome during recovery.

It’s important to recognize that these changes are not the person’s fault. They are only a side effect of their injury. Therefore, it is crucial for friends and family to help the person cope with the changes they are experiencing.

Speech/Language Difficulties

The frontal lobe helps a person produce fluent speech. If a stroke damages that area, several speech problems can arise.

Some conditions that frontal lobe stroke can cause include:

  • Broca’s aphasia. Also known as expressive aphasia, this disorder causes slow and choppy speech patterns. Usually, the stroke survivor can still comprehend what other people say.
  • Dysarthria. This disorder causes a person to slur their words and have trouble moving their lips.
  • Apraxia of speech. This causes a stroke victim to mispronounce simple words because they cannot control their tongue and lips.

Fortunately, it is possible to recover speech skills thanks to the brain’s natural ability to rewire nerve cells.

Can the Brain Heal Itself After Frontal Lobe Stroke?

While the effects of frontal lobe stroke can be damaging, they are not necessarily permanent. In fact, the brain can reassign functions affected by stroke to healthy portions of the brain.

This process, known as neuroplasticity, is what allows patients to recover the side effects of stroke. In the best cases, it’s what makes make a full recovery from stroke possible.

Through massed repetition, you can activate neuroplasticity and retrain your brain to recover abilities lost after a stroke.

Therefore, even if you’ve suffered damage to the frontal lobe, you may still be able to regain function.

Frontal Lobe Stroke Rehabilitation

To regain function after stroke, you will need to take part in rigorous therapy.

Here are a few types of therapy that can help you promote a successful recovery from frontal lobe stroke:

  • Speech therapy. If your frontal lobe stroke caused aphasia, begin speech therapy exercises right away. A speech therapist can teach you how to retrain your brain and regain language skills
  • Physical and occupational therapy. To recover muscle strength and coordination, make sure you participate in PT. Daily stroke recovery exercises are key to recovery. By exercising your affected limbs, you will stimulate your brain and rekindle the neural networks that help you move.
  • Cognitive training. This training can help improve memory, attention, problem-solving, and learning skills. You can do this through intensive repetition of cognitive exercises for stroke recovery.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps people develop positive strategies to avoid harmful actions. It can be especially helpful for stroke victims who struggle with impulsivity.
  • Positive psychology. Positive psychology can help retrain the brain to experience more positive emotions. To learn more about this, check out our book Healing & Happiness After Stroke.

These are a few therapies and treatments that can help you overcome frontal lobe stroke. Talk to your therapist for more recommendations.

Frontal Lobe Stroke: Key Points

Frontal lobe stroke can cause a person many cognitive, physical, and emotional difficulties.

However, thanks to the brain’s neuroplasticity, there is always hope for recovery. The key is to find a therapy that fits your needs and to keep practicing it until you regain your abilities.

We hope this article helps you better understand frontal lobe stroke and how to recover from it.   

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