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What Is Frontal Lobe Atrophy?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Frontal lobe atrophy is a reduction in size of the frontal lobe, the foremost area of the brain. This part of the brain is responsible for a number of very important processes, and as a result, changes to its shape and structure can cause a variety of problems. Patients with an atrophied frontal lobe may experience it as a standalone issue or in association with an underlying disease. Many neurodegenerative diseases like Huntington’s are associated with shrinkage in the frontal lobe over time.

Patients with this neurological condition can develop planning, emotional regulation, movement, and critical thinking impairments. Sometimes the condition onsets slowly. The symptoms are sometimes mistaken as signs of mental illness before more progressive symptoms indicative of neurological problems develop. For example, a patient might have disorganized thinking, emotional outbursts, and hallucinations, leading a doctor to suspect a condition like schizophrenia initially.

As frontal lobe atrophy progresses, the patient may start to develop movement disorders and more obvious neurological deficits. The frontal lobe helps the body plan and execute voluntary movements. Patients with degeneration in the frontal lobe may move more slowly, shake, or have difficulty with fine motor tasks. Sometimes they have difficulty moving at all. This can also affect speech and eating, as the patient may have difficulty swallowing and articulating clearly.

A medical imaging study can show signs of frontal lobe atrophy, especially when it is extreme. Detailed full color images of the brain may help a doctor identify specific areas of shrinkage. These can provide information about the patient’s symptoms and what the patient can expect. Medical testing may also provide information about why the frontal lobe is shrinking. The damage is irreversible, but patients may benefit from therapy and other options to help them retain function as long as possible.

Researchers sometimes have an interest in patients with frontal lobe atrophy, because the gradual breakdown of function can be tied to specific areas of the brain. This can help researchers pinpoint the areas of the brain responsible for different activities, which can in turn help with the treatment of patients who have neurological disorders. Research participants sometimes receive compensation for their assistance and also have access to a variety of treatment options that are free of charge if they are associated with the research. A neurologist can provide more information on open clinical trials and whether a patient is eligible for participation in a trial.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon989984 — On Mar 30, 2015

Not sure when Post 1 was, but know that I am sending good thoughts your way.

By anon956593 — On Jun 14, 2014

I cannot fathom the pain involved for all concerned in post 1, but please know you are in my prayers!

By anon311411 — On Jan 01, 2013

My son was diagnosed with long term frontal lobe atrophy at the age of 32. He has had three brain surgeries within the past two years for a phorencephlic cyst that was found at the age of ten.

After the second surgery, the third surgery was to relieve the pressure form the fourth ventricles. As a result of the cyst getting so large, he now has a displaced brain stem. His condition is getting worse. He is in the prison system with no real knowledge of TBI. Can someone please help him? With all of this, he is in solitary confinement and he belongs in a medical facility.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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