Frontal Lobe

Your brain’s frontal lobe is home to areas that manage thinking, emotions, personality, judgment, self-control, muscle control and movements, memory storage and more. Just as its name indicates, it’s the forward-most area of your brain. Your frontal lobe is a key area of study for both brain-related and mental health-related fields of medicine.


The frontal lobe controls many different abilities, ranging from movement and memory storage to judgement and social skills.
The frontal lobe is the front-most part of your brain. It’s responsible for control over many abilities, including the way you think, how you move and how you remember things. It’s also a key part in your social skills, and helps you understand and control how you talk, behave and interact with others.

What is the frontal lobe?

The frontal lobe is one of five lobes of your brain. This section of your brain works cooperatively with many other brain areas, giving you a wide range of abilities. Anything you do that involves thinking or conscious action relies on abilities contained within your frontal lobe.


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What does the frontal lobe do?

Your frontal lobe handles many abilities, including:

  • Reasoning: This includes simple and complex processing of information. Logic, reasoning, judgment, decision-making and creativity all fall into this category.
  • Social understanding: Your frontal lobe controls your understanding of social norms and helps determine what you should and shouldn’t do or say.
  • Executive functions: Some examples of these include self-control and inhibitions, attention span and working memory.
  • Voluntary muscle movements: These are intentional movements, such as moving your hand to pick something up or moving your legs to stand up and walk around. Your frontal lobe also contains the brain area that controls the muscles you use for speaking.
  • Learning and recalling information: This is your brain’s ability to process and learn new information for later use. Your frontal lobe also helps retrieve information later.


Where is the frontal lobe located?

As the name suggests, the frontal lobe is at the front of your head. It’s the section of your brain just behind your forehead.


How big is the frontal lobe?

Experts estimate that the frontal lobe makes up between 25% and 40% of your brain’s cerebral cortex. (The estimated range is wider because your brain doesn’t have clear boundaries between areas, so different studies used different ways to define the boundaries.) The word “cortex” comes from Latin and means “tree bark.” The cortex is the wrinkly-textured outer surface of your brain.

What is the frontal lobe made of?

Your frontal lobe consists of the same specialized cells found throughout your brain. The basic cell types are:

  • Neurons: These are the cells in your brain and nerves that can send or relay signals to other neurons. The signals travel as electricity, or “impulses” inside your neurons. Your neurons convert the electrical signals into chemicals that are released outside of the neuron. The next neuron detects the chemicals and triggers another impulse. In this way, a message travels quickly within and across neurons.
  • Glial cells: These are your nervous system’s support cells. They don’t manage signals. Instead, they maintain the neurons by clearing waste matter, providing nutrients and offering structural support.


Conditions and Disorders

What common conditions and disorders affect the frontal lobe?

Any condition that can affect your brain tissue can affect your frontal lobe. There are also some neurodevelopmental (brain development-related) conditions that specifically involve frontal lobe effects and symptoms. Conditions and symptoms that can affect your frontal lobe include:

What are some common signs or symptoms of frontal lobe conditions?

There are dozens (if not more) of possible signs and symptoms of frontal lobe conditions. These signs and symptoms can vary widely for two reasons:

  • Your frontal lobe manages many different abilities.
  • Many different conditions can affect your temporal lobe.

While the list of symptoms that can affect your frontal lobe is long, there are a few types of symptoms that are especially common. These include:

  • Personality changes.
  • Trouble with reasoning, paying attention, organizing, planning or switching your attention between two tasks.
  • Executive dysfunction.
  • Difficulty controlling your impulses, including what you say or do.
  • Certain forms of amnesia (memory loss).
  • Trouble with moving certain muscles, including muscles you use to talk.

What are some common tests to check the health of the frontal lobe?

There are many ways healthcare providers can check the health of your frontal lobe. These include diagnostic tests, lab tests, imaging scans and more. Examples include:

What are common treatments for conditions affecting the frontal lobe?

The treatments for frontal lobe-related conditions can vary even more widely than the conditions they treat. Your healthcare provider is the best person to tell you about the treatments that are possible and that they recommend.


What can I do to take care of my frontal lobe?

You can do many things to maintain the health of your entire brain, including your frontal lobe. Some brain-related conditions are preventable. Others aren’t preventable, but you may be able to reduce your risk of developing them. Some things you can do to maintain your brain health include:

  • Eat a balanced diet: Your diet affects your circulatory health, which is important for your brain to work correctly (a stroke is an example of a condition that happens when circulatory disorders affect your brain). Too much or too little of certain vitamins can also affect your brain.
  • Reach and maintain a weight that’s healthy for you, and find ways to be physically active: Your weight and activity level can prevent or delay conditions that affect your brain, especially circulatory issues like high blood pressure. Your primary care provider can advise you on what weight range is healthy for you and help you find ways to reach and stay in that range. Physical activity also benefits brain health directly, encouraging good circulation and how your brain produces key signaling chemicals known as neurotransmitters.
  • Wear safety equipment as needed: Your frontal lobe is especially prone to concussions and traumatic brain injuries. That’s because this part of your brain is at the very front of your head, meaning it’s very vulnerable. Helmets, safety restraints (such as seat belts) and other types of protective gear are essential to preventing serious injuries.
  • Manage your chronic conditions: Many conditions that affect your brain worsen over time. However, treating those conditions can sometimes stop them or delay how long it takes for them to worsen. Examples of conditions like this include Type 2 diabetes, epilepsy and more.

Additional Common Questions

What’s an interesting fact about the frontal lobe?

Your frontal lobe contains brain areas that manage who you are — especially your personality — and how you behave. Your ability to think, solve problems and build social relationships, sense of ethics and right vs. wrong all rely on parts of your frontal lobe.

Experts know this because of a railroad foreman named Phineas Gage. In 1848, an accidental explosion at a railroad construction site propelled an iron rod through Gage’s head, destroying the left side of his frontal lobe. Before the accident, Gage was a calm, respected leader among his coworkers. Gage survived, but after the accident, his personality changed. He would lose his temper, act disrespectfully and constantly use profanity.

However, Gage’s personality changes weren’t permanent. Four years after his accident, Gage moved to Chile in South America and became a stagecoach driver. Somewhere in late 1858 or early 1859, a doctor who examined Gage said he was physically healthy and showed “no impairment whatever of his mental faculties.”

While Gage mostly recovered from the accident, he died from seizures in San Francisco in 1860. The seizures were very likely the result of damage from the accident. However, his case remains one of the most useful in modern medicine’s understanding of what the frontal lobe does, especially when it comes to your personality.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

When you think about your frontal lobe, you’re telling a part of your brain to think about itself. Your frontal lobe is one of the most important sections of your brain. It controls or manages many abilities you use throughout your everyday life. It’s also home to areas that control your personality, emotions, judgment and more. Caring for your frontal lobe and getting treatment for conditions that affect it can make a big difference in how it works and contributes to your life.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 12/05/2022.

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