What Does the Right Frontal Lobe of the Brain Do?

By Jon Williams

The frontal lobe of the brain is considered to be the center of personality and emotional functioning. There is considerable overlap in the functions of the right and left frontal lobes of the brain. Both lobes are involved in motor behavior, problem solving, memory, judgment, decision making, sexual behavior, social behavior, emotional behavior and impulse control.

Lateralization of Function

Historically, beginning with Pierre Paul Broca’s observation in 1861 that the left hemisphere of the brain is chiefly responsible for language and linguistic behavior, it has been thought that the left and right lobes are asymmetric and may specialize in functioning. Contemporary research demonstrates that both hemispheres are intricately involved in both language and emotions, but there may be subtle lateralization of function that takes place.

Emotional Functioning

The right and left frontal lobes may specialize in different aspects of emotional functioning. Lesions to the right frontal lobe often lead to apathy and indifference to failure, in contrast with left hemisphere lesions, which are associated with increases in anxiety.

Non-Verbal Communication

The right lobe may be more involved in non-verbal aspects of communication. For example, the right lobe is implicated in recognition of positive and negative emotions in facial expressions.

Auditory Stimulus Interpretation

The right lobe may also be involved in use of auditory cues such as intonation and inflection in the interpretation of emotional valences of sadness, fear, anger, and so forth.

Negative Emotions

The right frontal lobe is more active than the left during negative emotions, and the left hemisphere is more active during positive emotions.

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