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What Is the Parietal-Temporal-Occipital Area?

By J. Finnegan
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The parietal-temporal-occipital (PTO) is an area of the brain's cerebral cortex that includes parts of the temporal, parietal, and occipital lobes. It's one of several association areas in the brain and facilitates the processing of visual, auditory, and non-primary sensory information, such as sensations transmitted via the skin or internal organs rather than primary sensory information like sight or hearing. Stimuli is interpreted in the PTO and then sent to other parts of the brain. Along with a few other regions of the brain, the parietal-temporal-occipital region of the brain's left hemisphere is responsible for processing language. The PTO of the right hemisphere aids in processing spatial awareness.

The outer layer of the brain is called the cerebral cortex. It's a sheet of neural tissue that is composed of gray and white matter and is marked by ridges called gyri and depressions called sulci. The cerebral cortex can be divided into two sides, or hemispheres, by a long deep groove called the great longitudinal fissure.

Both hemispheres of the cerebral cortex have four lobes. The frontal lobe is located in the forehead region. Just behind it, on the top of the head, is the parietal lobe. Behind the frontal lobe, under the parietal lobe and above the ear, located in and behind the temple region, is the temporal lobe. The occipital lobe is located in the back of the head, beneath the occipital bone of the skull.

The parietal lobe is involved in the processing of sensory information. The occipital lobe, which is the smallest lobe in the human brain, is responsible for processing visual information. The temporal lobe processes auditory information and assigns meaning to spoken language and visual imagery. The frontal lobe deals with memory, mood, attention span, planning ability, social behavior, task-based activities, and other higher mental functions.

Because the parietal-temporal-occipital association area incorporates sections of three of the brain's lobes, it's able to simultaneously process stimuli from each of them and assist in assigning meaning. Once the PTO has processed and assigned meaning to stimuli, it sends the completed information to other areas of the brain for further processing, particularly the limbic and prefrontal association areas. The limbic association area is located in the temporal lobe and is responsible for attaching emotional value to stimuli. It also plays a role in learning and memory. The prefrontal association area is located in the frontal lobe and is involved in such activities as controlling social behavior, making decisions, personality, and more.

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