Neurophysiology 101:

Your temporal lobes are located laterally on either side of your head, which makes them especially vulnerable to head trauma.  They help you to interpret and remember what you hear, translate it into insight and emotional conviction, and help to keep you emotionally stable (i.e. less prone to anger).

Functions of the Temporal Lobes:

The temporal lobes are responsible for:

  • Language comprehension, as well as learning by hearing, and word retrieval
  • Memory (intermediate and long-term)
  • Emotional regulation
  • Rhythm and music
  • Visual learning
  • Interpretation of facial expressions, and voice inflection

Dysfunction in the Temporal Lobes:

Of the so-called “negative” emotions, the dominant temporal lobes (usually the left side) are those most closely linked to volatility, anger and violence.  Temporal lobe dysfunction in general can be associated with difficulties in learning (auditory, visual, social, and reading comprehension).  Non-dominant (usually right sided) dysfunction is more often associated with panic and fear.

Treatment Approaches:

Music and Rhythm

Because the non-dominant temporal lobes are associated with music, one way to soothe dysfunction in the temporal lobes is with music and rhythm.  This includes not just listening to beautiful music, but also singing or playing an instrument, dancing, or reading rhythmic poetry.

Not all music is created equal, though.  Remember that the temporal lobes are involved in processing what is heard and forming convictions about it, and also recall that dysfunction in the temporal lobes can lead to anger and violence.  For that reason, it’s very important to be selective about the kinds of music you choose.  Dissonant, harsh sounds may have a disruptive effect – and temporal disruption is the opposite of what we’re after!

Also, as anyone who deeply loves music can tell you, musical lyrics are not subject to the same cognitive filtering as other spoken words might be — they have a much more direct route to our emotions.  The Apostle Paul reminds us, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things” (Phil 4:8).  This is especially true of the music you choose.

Get Enough Sleep

Evidence shows that sleep deprivation decreases blood flow to all parts of the brain, but to the temporal lobes especially.  This may account for some of the effects of sleep deprivation, including a shorter “fuse”.  For more on effects of sleep deprivation, click here.

Lower Your Caffeine Intake

Caffeine does decrease blood flow to the brain, just like adrenaline does (and for the same reason – caffeine indirectly increases epinephrine in the body).  This does not mean I’m against coffee entirely, though! There’s definitely evidence that your cup of Joe, in moderation, might be beneficial to your health.  It’s just a good idea to not overdo it. 

Watch Your Sugar Intake

Hypoglycemia can make anybody short-tempered.  Hypoglycemia occurs when you eat a lot of sugar, your body responds by pumping out a corresponding dose of insulin, which allows the sugar to rush inside your cells all at once, and subsequently there’s too little sugar in the bloodstream.  To counteract this:

  1. Regulate your sugar intake, making sure you read labels and avoid added sugar.
  2. Get your glucose instead from complex carbohydrates.
  3. Always pair your carbohydrates with some form of protein, and/or fat.
  4. Eat frequent small meals.

For more on sugar addiction, click here.

A Few Other Notes

If you have a history of recreational drug use, be aware that particularly marijuana decreases blood flow to the temporal lobes and can inhibit learning and language skills.  There are certainly natural ways to increase blood flow to the brain (including sleep, lowering caffeine, exercise, and certain botanicals).  But make sure you’re not working at cross purposes by continuing to smoke.

If your symptoms of temporal lobe dysfunction showed up after head trauma, consider a  neurological workup (some anti-seizure meds may be appropriate depending on the extent of the trauma), and a homeopathic evaluation.  There are a few homeopathic remedies specific for trauma, and specifically ailments due to lingering effects of head trauma.

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