While investigating a unique brain condition, researchers uncovered the functions of a region on the surface of the brain that has remained a scientific mystery for nearly 100 years.
While every part of the brain has a specific role and often works together with other brain regions to perform complex tasks, the function of one area has mystified scientists for nearly a century.
The region — called the temporal pole — resides at the tip of the temporal lobe, but for decades researchers studying the cerebral cortex could not determine its purpose.
However, in a recent study published in the Annals of Neurology, scientists were able to identify its function by investigating 28 people with a rare disease that damages the temporal pole called TDP-C.
Using autopsy examinations and observational data of people with TDP-C, the scientists discovered that the temporal lobe plays a critical role in face recognition, word comprehension, and behavior regulation.
"Research on this disease helps us understand how the brain decodes the meaning of words, the feelings of others, and the identity of faces," explains corresponding author Marsel Mesulam, chief of behavioral neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a Northwestern Medicine neurologist, in a news release.
"This knowledge will help to determine the nature of the disease and the nature of brain networks that are responsible for word comprehension, person identification, and the monitoring of interpersonal conduct," Mesulam adds.
Inspired by their findings, the research team is investigating the relationship between this previously mysterious brain region and TDP-C. In addition, they hope their research will help people with this unique condition by identifying the risk factors associated with TDP-C and understanding more about how the disease progresses.