The temporal lobe lies below the parietal lobe, and in front of the occipital lobe. If you were to pinpoint this area from the outside, you would have to look at the brain area directly behind the ears. This lobe contains the hippocampus and amygdala, among other things.
In the medial part of the temporal lobe are the parahippocampal gyrus and the fusiform gyrus. The hippocampus and amygdala are also found in the temporal lobe (in the medial portion). In the lateral part of the temporal lobe lie the Brodmann areas 20, 21 and 22, so you can also find Wernicke's area here. The lateral portion also contains, from front to back, the primary and secondary auditory cortices. The most anterior part of the temporal lobe is also called the temporal pole.
Because of the different areas found in the temporal lobe, this part of the brain also has many different functions. For instance the processing of auditory information, but this is not the only thing. For example, the area is also involved in recognizing and naming people, animals and objects. In addition, the hippocampus stores temporary memories. This area is therefore a part of declarative memory.
A Canadian researcher named Michael Persinger additionally claims that the temporal lobe is involved in religion. He investigated this by using a helmet to administer very light electric shocks to the temporal lobe. His subjects reported seeing angels, or being able to perceive god, while administering the shocks. According to Persinger, 80% of all subjects reported that they had perceived someone else in the room, aside from themselves and the experimenter. These findings were very remarkable, but unfortunately no researcher has yet reproduced them. This means that there is not yet sufficient evidence for the correctness of the theory that religion is located in the temporal lobe.
Author: Myrthe Princen (translated by Melanie Smekal)
This lobe is featured in the following brain matters articles:
A first encounter with the brain