The Effects of a Frontal Lobe Stroke

A stroke involving the frontal lobe of the brain can cause noticeable effects, such as leg weakness, arm weakness on one side of the body, or behavioral changes.

The brain's left and right frontal lobes are relatively large and control many important functions in everyday life. The symptoms depend on which area of the frontal lobe was affected, the size of the stroke, and whether a person has had a previous stroke or other conditions that affect the brain.

This article discusses the symptoms of a frontal lobe stroke and how they may differ depending on the individual.

Symptoms of a frontal lobe stroke.

Verywell / Hugo Lin

Effects of a Frontal Lobe Stroke

The complications that can occur after a frontal lobe stroke fall into four main categories. If you or a loved one has experienced a frontal lobe stroke, you may experience any combination of these effects:

Some of these effects depend on which side of the brain was affected by the stroke and whether a person is right-handed or left-handed.

Muscle Weakness

The frontal lobe of the brain controls the movement of the opposite side of the body. A stroke that causes weakness (hemiparesis) or paralysis (hemiplegia) may produce obvious arm or leg weakness, and it can also cause any of the following symptoms as well:

  • Dysphagia or difficulty swallowing
  • Ataxia or damage to the body's ability to coordinate movement (balance, posture, walking)
  • Urinary incontinence or inability to urinate due to loss of muscle control

Over time, weak muscles that are not regularly moved can develop painful contractures (severe stiffness) or atrophy (thinning of the muscle).

Physical therapy and occupational therapy after a stroke can help a person attain their best ability to control movement, and help to prevent muscle contractures and muscle atrophy.

Weakness or paralysis on one side of the body is the most dramatic and noticeable effect of a frontal lobe stroke.

Speech and Language Problems

The different language areas of the brain are located in the frontal lobe, the temporal lobe, and the parietal lobe.

Language function is primarily located in the dominant side of the brain, which is usually the side opposite the dominant hand. Since most people are right-handed, this is most often the left side.

The comprehension of language is controlled by a region in the dominant temporal and parietal lobes of the brain, while fluent speech is produced by a region in the dominant frontal lobe of the brain.

A dominant frontal lobe stroke affects a stroke survivor's ability to produce fluent speech and can result in a choppy speech pattern, sometimes with normal or nearly normal language comprehension.

This speech pattern characteristic of a dominant-sided frontal lobe stroke is called Broca’s aphasia.

Thinking Skills

The cognitive changes after a frontal lobe stroke may be subtle. Some people who repeatedly experience several small strokes involving the frontal lobes of the brain may develop a type of dementia called vascular dementia.

When a stroke produces dementia, it can be difficult to distinguish whether it's due to stroke or another cause. It is important to get an accurate diagnosis because the medical management of the two conditions is not the same.

Other characteristic cognitive changes caused by a frontal lobe stroke include the following:

  • Lack of initiative, mood changes, and inattentiveness
  • Difficulty solving problems (goal-directed behavior) in different realms of cognition including psycholinguistic, constructive, logical, and arithmetical

Behavior and Personality Changes

Sometimes, behavioral changes may develop after a frontal lobe stroke. Some specific behavioral changes include excessive jealousy, loss of sense of humor, or an uncharacteristic lack of empathy.

Other common behavioral changes after a frontal lobe stroke include the following:

  • Profound lack of motivation
  • Spontaneous expression of rude or odd remarks
  • Irritability
  • Carelessness and apathy
  • Inappropriate and seemingly random persistence and repetition of certain behaviors
  • Bowel or bladder emptying when it is not socially appropriate

The Frontal Lobe of the Brain

The left and right frontal lobes of the brain are large regions at the front of the brain that extend back towards the middle of the brain, accounting for approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of the cerebral cortex. We have a left frontal lobe and a right frontal lobe.

Blood Vessels That Supply the Frontal Lobe

Like all strokes, a frontal lobe stroke is caused by an interruption of blood flow to a region of the brain. This can be caused by a blocked blood vessel or by a bleeding blood vessel.

A frontal lobe stroke is caused by interrupted blood flow through any of the following arteries:

  • The internal carotid artery or its branches
  • The middle cerebral artery or its branches
  • The anterior cerebral artery or its branches

Usually, a frontal lobe stroke involves only the left frontal lobe or the right frontal lobe because each side receives blood from arteries on its own side.

Size of a Frontal Lobe Stroke

A frontal lobe stroke can be large or small, depending on whether interruption of blood flow occurs in one of the large blood vessels or in a small branch of a blood vessel.

Because the frontal lobes are substantial in size, specific regions of the frontal lobe may be damaged by a stroke, while other regions are spared. If there is a great deal of swelling or bleeding immediately after a stroke, the short-term phase may be uncertain as the bleeding and swelling slowly resolves.

Summary

A frontal lobe stroke can produce a variety of symptoms, some of which are more clearly related to strokes (weakness) and some of which can be confused with depression or dementia. Language can be affected by a frontal lobe stroke if the stroke affects the dominant side of the brain.

When a stroke produces weakness, physical rehabilitation is an essential part of recovery. Strokes that lead to dementia can seem similar to those caused by another condition. It's important to see your healthcare provider for appropriate treatment.

A Word From Verywell

Most people who have had a frontal lobe stroke are able to experience some recovery of skills. The improvement is expected to take time and it can be sporadic or irregular at times. It is important not to be discouraged, because often, stroke survivors continue to improve even after stabilizing.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Jose Vega MD, PhD
Jose Vega MD, PhD, is a board-certified neurologist and published researcher specializing in stroke.