To understand how stroke occurs and the damage it can cause, it is helpful to know the basic anatomy of the brain. The signs and symptoms of a stroke depend on which region of the brain is affected and to what degree.
The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain, made up of four distinct lobes: the frontal, temporal, parietal and occipital. Each of these lobes has different functions, some of which may overlap.
- Frontal lobe: involved in motor function, problem solving, spontaneity, memory, language, initiation, judgment, impulse control, and social and sexual behavior
- Temporal lobe: controls memory, hearing, and understanding of speech and allows a person to distinguish between sounds and smells
- Parietal lobe: controls sensory comprehension, interpreting taste, touch, temperature, pain, movement and orientation
- Occipital lobe: processes visual stimuli
The cerebrum can be anatomically divided into two parts: the right and left hemispheres. The right hemisphere controls the left side of the body, and the left hemisphere controls the right side. This aspect of brain anatomy, makes clear why stroke symptoms often only affect one side of the body.
The cerebellum is located behind the brain stem. While the frontal lobe controls movement, the cerebellum “fine-tunes” this movement. This area of the brain is responsible for fine motor movement, balance, and the brain’s ability to determine limb position. A stroke in this area of the brain can lead to paralysis or “jerky” muscle movements.
The Brain Stem
Located at the top of the spinal column, the brain stem controls breathing, heart rate, blood pressure and alertness. Brain stem strokes can disrupt breathing, causing sudden death.
Strokes can be caused by a number of things. If you’re concerned at all about your risk, consider taking our stroke health risk assessment.