Parietal Lobe Function

The parietal lobe is one of the four major lobes of the brain, occupying a large portion of the cerebral hemispheres.
The main functions of the parietal lobe include:

  • Interpreting language and words (receptive and sensory component of language)
  • Cortical processing of touch, pain and temperature
  • Regulating somatosensory functions
  • Interpreting signals from vision, hearing, motor, sensory and memory
  • Self perception and interaction with the world

The post central gyrus is the primary somatosensory area of the cortex and comprises of three main regions called Brodmann’s areas 1, 2 & 3. Sensory maps are represented through the sensory homunculus, as seen in the image above. The sensory homunculus is a visual representation of how somatosensory feedback is provided from the body to the cortex for interpretation. Notice how we get the most information and feedback from our limbs? (They are bigger on the picture and therefore are representing more information) Proprioception or joint position sense signals allow us to know where our body is in space at any one time.   Receiving appropriate and adequate information on spatial perception is vital for any child to develop a sense of confidence in both motor and social skills, co-ordination, fluency of movement and adequate understanding when learning.

Children with poor parietal function can often display signs of:

  • Clumsiness
  • Awkward/asymmetrical gait
  • Fearful of the playground
  • Inability to attend to more than one object at a time
  • Poor oral-motor language (I.e.: Unable to move lips and tongue well)
  • Difficulty closing their mouth when eating
  • Difficulty in distinguishing left from right
  • Poor hand-eye coordination
  • Lack of awareness of certain body parts and/or surrounding space (I.e.: They bump into things often)
  • Socially awkward

The Parietal lobe can be specifically assessed via the followed methods:: 

  • Parietal localisation
  • Checking for agrapthaesthesia and asterognosia (I.e.: Recognise drawn shapes/symbols or objects on palm of the hand with the eyes closed, respectively)
  • Sensory testing of afferent sensory pathways (E.g.: Pain, temperature, touch, joint position sense)
  • Body map localization (E.g.: Touch right shoulder with left hand)
  • OPK testing, specifically pursuit movements

Active homecare for parents should include:

  • Sensory integration: Experimenting with various sensations on the skin  (E.g.: Brushing or scratching the skin, deep pressure massage)
  • Oral - facial stimulation (E.g.: Nut butter pastes around the mouth, encouraging eating meat off the bone) 
  • Vestibular exercises (E.g.: Rocking horses, rolling down hills, swinging)
  • Building extensor tone (E.g.: Superman/Supergirl, Skydiver)
  • Rough and tumble play
  • Moulding play dough
  • Playing with jigsaw puzzles
  • Jumping on the trampoline
  • Body mapping in mirror (I.e.: Looking at limb in reflection)
  • For younger children, 'open, shut them' games, singing and rhymes

Cranial therapy and chiropractic adjustments are also important to improve the feedback to the brain. 

The parietal lobe is integral in building well-rounded socially capable kids, teens and adults. Knowing how to perceive our sensory world and knowing where we are in space is crucial for a balanced and capable developing brain. We have a critical role in bringing this part of the brain online through the powerful work we do as chiropractors. Never underestimate the influence an enhanced nervous system can have on any child. 

Written by Kelly Beanland, Chiropractor