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Temporal Lobe Stroke: What to Expect on the Road to Recovery

Helpful doctor working with stroke patient to understand effects of temporal lobe stroke

Do you know someone that has suffered a temporal lobe stroke and wonder what to expect?

A stroke in the temporal lobe can affect many important functions like memory, language, and emotion.

Every stroke is different, and each patient experiences side effects differently. Some temporal lobe stroke survivors may only struggle with memory while others have completely different symptoms.

This is why it’s important to be flexible when learning about a stroke in this region. While this is not a definitive guide, you’re about to learn the most common side effects of a stroke in the temporal lobe, and how to recover.

Causes of Temporal Lobe Stroke

illustration of brain with temporal lobe highlighted in red

The temporal lobe is the 2nd largest lobe in the brain. It’s located just behind the ears and makes up the lower region of the brain.

Temporal lobe strokes are caused when a blood vessel in the temporal lobe either gets clogged (ischemic stroke), or when a blood vessel bursts in this area (hemorrhagic stroke).

Blood is rich in oxygen, which fuels cellular activity. When the brain doesn’t receive a sufficient supply of blood, those brain cells start to die. This is why stroke is a medical emergency.

The best way to minimize brain damage after a stroke is to get immediate medical attention to restore blood flow in the brain. Fast treatment helps minimize the side effects of stroke.

The side effects sustained after a temporal lobe stroke depend upon the speed of treatment, the size of the stroke, and other factors. We will take a look at the most common side effects next.

Side Effects of Stroke in the Temporal Lobe

The side effects of a temporal lobe stroke will usually coincide with the function of the temporal lobe, which includes memory, language, and emotion.

Here are the 6 most common symptoms and side effects of a temporal lobe stroke:

1. Poor Memory

The hippocampus is a structure located inside the temporal lobe that is primarily responsible for learning and memory. A stroke in the temporal lobe can affect past memories and the ability to learn and retain new information.

2. Inability to Recognize Faces (Prosopagnosia)

man with a question mark over face to demonstrate inability to recognize faces

The temporal lobe also plays a large role in perception. As a result, some temporal lobe stroke survivors experience a condition called prosopagnosia. With this condition, they may not be able to recognize faces, even with family members.

Experts think this occurs because of impaired memory and perception skills after injury to the temporal lobe after a stroke.

3. Impaired Speech (Fluent Aphasia)

The temporal lobe spans across both sides of the brain, and it’s divided into two halves, just like the rest of the brain (referred to as the brain’s left and right hemispheres).

if a stroke occurs in the dominant side of the temporal lobe, it may affect the Wernicke’s area. This part of the brain controls verbal and visual language skills.

When this area has been damaged by stroke, the survivor may struggle with speech difficulties known as aphasia. Specifically, they may sustain Wernicke’s aphasia, which is also called fluent aphasia.

With fluent aphasia, the survivor may be able to speak fluently but may use the wrong words. Here’s a video of a stroke patient that suffers from Wernicke’s aphasia / fluent aphasia:

4. Difficulty with Depth Perception

While most visual disturbances after stroke occur when the visual cortex has been damaged, a temporal lobe stroke may also cause issues.

The temporal lobe plays a role in perception. Some temporal stroke survivors experience difficulties with depth perception or, in more severe cases, field cuts.

With a field cut, the patient cannot see their field of vision on the affected side. Field cuts are different from hemineglect.

5. Trouble with Sound

Temporal lobe strokes can impair one’s ability to process and recognize sounds because the primary auditory cortex is located in the temporal lobe.

The brain needs to derive meaning from sounds in order for them to have significance. Temporal lobe stroke survivors may experience difficulties recognizing sounds or locating where they’re coming from.

6. Emotional and Behavioral Changes

The amygdala is located inside the temporal lobe and plays a role with emotion. Interestingly, a stroke in the temporal lobe can affect emotion in very different ways.

For some, they may experience more aggressive behavior after stroke while others may become more passive. This illustrates how every stroke is different, even when it occurs in the same area of the brain.

Instead of trying to predict which emotional or behavioral changes stroke patients may experience, it’s best to take action to address what does happen.

Next, we will discuss the different ways your rehabilitation team may address all these different side effects.

Rehabilitation for Temporal Lobe Strokes

therapist working with stroke patient on speech therapy exercises

Because temporal lobe strokes affects every brain differently, treatments will vary based on the symptoms experienced by each individual.

Here are some types of therapy that can help recovery after temporal lobe stroke:

  • Speech therapy can help stroke survivors overcome all types of aphasia including Wernicke’s aphasia. It works by practicing specific speech therapy exercises to help patients relearn the particular language skill that was impaired.
  • Cognitive training may help improve memory in some patients that struggle with it. While memory is not guaranteed to improve, cognitive training is known to help with recognition, which may help patients recognize faces again.
  • Vision restoration therapy may help improve vision after stroke. While more research is needed in this area, Novavision has a good reputation.
  • Positive psychology can help retrain the brain to experience more positive emotions. If a temporal lobe stroke has brought upon negative emotional changes, positive psychology seeks to train the brain to experience better emotion. The book Healing & Happiness After Stroke is a great resource for this.
  • Psychotherapy may also benefit survivors of temporal lobe stroke. It can provide new ways of coping with significant life changes and difficult emotions after stroke.
  • Audiologists can help fit you with a hearing aid if you struggle with impaired hearing after stroke. You can talk to a Speech-Language Pathologist for recommendations or other methods to improve hearing after stroke.

These rehabilitation methods promote recovery through the phenomenon of neuroplasticity: the brain’s ability to continually adapt and reassign functions affected by stroke to healthy regions of the brain.

Neuroplasticity is activated by massed practice. While one or two therapy sessions may not provide results, consistent stimulation can help temporal lobe stroke patients regain lost skills.

There are many therapies and treatments that can help those overcoming temporal lobe stroke. Talk to your therapist to get recommendations or continue your own research online.

Temporal Lobe Stroke: Key Points

Temporal lobe stroke may affect the ability to recognize faces and form memories. It can also result in “fluent aphasia” where the patient can speak fluently but their words get mixed around.

While the side effects of a stroke in the temporal lobe may feel confusing to patients and caregivers, there is hope for recovery through neuroplasticity and rehabilitation. By stimulating the brain with therapeutic activities, survivors can help regain lost function.

Experiment with different therapies until you find the ones that work best for you.

We hope this article helped you better understand what to expect after a temporal lobe stroke. Good luck!

Featured image: ©iStock.com/DMEPhotography

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