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Inferior Parietal Cortex

Last update: September 17, 2022
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By BrainMatters

Summary

The inferior parietal lobe appears to be partially specific to humans. Many spatial processes take place there, such as understanding how objects seen relate to each other in space. But related things, like arithmetic, or spatial attention, are also partially processed in the inferior parietal lobe. Damage to this area can lead to plates being eaten only half empty!

Function

This area consists of the supramarginal gyrus and the angular gyrus. It seems that the supramarginal gyrus (the 'anterior' part) does not really correspond to a similar area in animals. That makes it interesting, because perhaps typical human processes take place here! One suggestion is that this area once evolved for the use of tools, but we do not know that for sure. The angular gyrus is involved, for example, in arithmetic. Recent research (Cohen-Kadosh, Current Biology, 2011) showed that stimulation of the angular gyrus during learning of mathematical symbols led to better 'mathematical' performance with those symbols afterwards.

Location

These brain regions are located just behind the primary sensorimotor cortex, immediately after the large central gyrus. At the very top of the brain is the superior parietal lobe. Just below that, but above the temporal lobe, is the inferior parietal lobe. Overall, these areas are still part of the 'where' pathway of the visual system, though they do quite a bit more.

Fact

In this brain area there are brain cells that are active when you perform an action AND when someone else performs that action. We call these cells mirror neurons.

Patients

Damage to the parietal lobe, especially in the right hemisphere of the brain, sometimes leads to a condition called 'neglect'. People with neglect have a spatial attention disorder: they structurally ignore everything on the left side. This sometimes even leads to people only eating the right side of their plate!

Author: Myrthe Princen (translated by Thomas von Rein)
Image: Marcel Loeffen

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