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Human Brain Biology - Development of Frontal Lobes Prior to Adolescence

Updated on October 26, 2016
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish offers 25+ years successful experience in medicine, psychology, STEM courses, and aerospace education (CAP).

The words printed on the brain figure above are not necessarily linked to the area of the brain on which they appear.
The words printed on the brain figure above are not necessarily linked to the area of the brain on which they appear. | Source

Misunderstood Brain Biology

Some incorrect information about human anatomy appears on the Internet and can do some harm. In order to find the most correct and relevant related data, look at websites for major universities and medical colleges or the Mayo Clinic. All of these sites provide email addresses to actual professional scientists to query when questions arise beyond the presentations on the websites.

It is important to know the sources of information and their educational and/or professional backgrounds before believing online health and medical posts.

One inaccuracy that surfaces online now and again has two parts:

  1. Teenagers' frontal lobes are not connected to the rest of their brains and
  2. Frontal lobes are totally non existent from birth to the latest teen years.

Neither assertion is correct. In fact, even the newborn human infant needs these brain parts in order to live.

The frontal lobe of your baby's brain is just behind her forehead. It handles all her thinking, and voluntary behavior such as walking, speech, and other.

— - Your baby's brain: the frontal lobe

Brain Biology Poses Life and Death Information

Let me provide my background for writing this Hub.

First, I completed AP Biology in grade 8 and proficiency-tested out of Freshman Biology in college. Next, I earned a masters degree in preventive medicine. Then, I tutored biology for several years and taught high school level biology for 10 years. Still, for this Hub I referenced recognized authorities in brain biology and neurology.

The references and my experience tell me that babies are born with frontal lobes.

Those not having frontal lobes suffer from a congenital birth defect or defects that break the hearts of their families and can often end in fatality. In the nomenclature of brain mapper Barbara Houk, MD/Psychiatrist, those brains without frontal lobes are broken.

In teaching biology, I was intrigued by the myth some students believed that rats grow into bats - always. In fact, they never do so. However, the healthy child without any frontal lobes is, as Stephen Colbert might say, a mythier myth.

— Patty Inglish

Frontal Lobe in an Infant's brain

The newborn's brain and its parts. Notice the frontal lobe.
The newborn's brain and its parts. Notice the frontal lobe. | Source

Evidence From a Practicing Neurologist

The following comment was provided on the medical communications website Just Answer; Neurology by

Dr. Frank, Board Certified Physician in Neurology with an MD and a PhD. Board Certified General Adult Neurologist, with experience in experimental neuroimaging and neurodiagnostics.

Note: Dr. Frank's Medical License was verified in 2012 by a leading third-party verification service.

In answer to a write-in question:

Your son really could not be born without both frontal lobes, and have normal speech and dexterity. Congenital absence of the frontal lobes would leave a severe form of disability.

— Dr. Frank, Board Certified Physician in Neurology

Evidence From Autopsy

The evidence that the brains of older human fetuses and newborn infants have frontal lobes comes from surgical dissection upon autopsy and amasses from centuries of autopsies. While I was not exposed to human infant autopsies, I saw pictures of them. I was required to participate in dissection of embryonic and fetal animals, in which I witnessed frontal lobes present before birth.

Thus, we have standard biological instruction, autopsy evidence, and dissection evidence that even human fetuses possess frontal lobes.

Largest Lobe Of The Brain

The frontal lobe is the largest lobe on either side of the human brain. However, it is possible for a person to live with one frontal lobe instead of two.

Evidence From the National Institutes of Health (NIH)

The NIH classifies any missing frontal lobe in any fetus or person after birth as a Brain Malformation. Such conditions occurring before birth usually happen at or soon after conception. The malformations can be caused by either genetics or by environmental products such as chemicals, drugs (even prescribed medications), radiation exposure, infections (like measles), and perhaps some other items -- You might have heard of some others in the news.

A couple of malformations of the brain that are fatal include those in which the embryo's brain does not split into two halves or hemispheres. In anencephaly, an infant comes to birth without a forebrain (cerebrum/frontal lobes) and without part of the skull and scalp. Most of these infants are still born or die within hours or perhaps a few days. While those that live do so for a short time, they are blind and deaf, and never become conscious. In holoprosencephaly, the embryo's forebrain does not divide into two halves either partially or completely and the set of problems in this condition range from cleft palate to death.

Infants need frontal lobes, Children need frontal lobes before age 13.

From NIH: Cephalic Disorders Fact Sheet. Retrieved January 5, 2014.

Changes In Adolescence

What happens at age 13? -- Probably an increased rate and amount of myelination, the formation of insulation for brain nerves with the substance myelin, including in the frontal lobes. Myelin covers the nerves and makes connections in the brain. Myelination occurs in the womb and through the 20s, according to the body of human brain research literature.

Frontal Lobes - Human Brain Myelination Mapped in Infants

Myelination in the infant's brain from birth to age 12 months was first accomplished on January 20 2011 by Sean C. L. Deoni, PhD,; Centre for Neuroimaging Sciences at King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry in the UK.The entire brain, including frontal lobes, is undergoing myelination during the first year after birth and even before, especially in such areas as the brain stem and cerebellum.

The team thinks it can use the data collected to develop ways of treating conditions stemming from problems with myelination, possible even autism spectrum disorders.

A Simplified Timeline for Frontal Lobe Development

Brain begins to develop
Week 35 of gestation
A good-sized pair of frontal lobes are evident. Myelination begn weeks or months ago.
Weeks 36+ of Gestation
.The frontal lobes have increased dramatically in size
The brain is about 25% of adult size and will grow, including frontal lobes.
Age 6 months - 12 months
A dramatic increase in size of the frontal lobes is clear as the overall brain grows.
Approximately Age 13
A jump in myelin production may be evident at this time.
Age 30
The frontal lobes may be complete in their development at this time.

The Important Frontal Lobe

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Frontal Lobes Can be Damaged

Damage to the Frontal Lobes can result in many conditions, according to the NIH, some of which are in the simplified list below:

  • Apathy, lack of motivation, and/or personality changes.
  • Euphoria and possibly inappropriate humor/attitude.
  • Memory problems.
  • Movement problems, slowed down movements.
  • Some behaviors that mimic psychopathic or sociopathic behaviors.
  • Speech problems, including mutism (inability or lack of motivation to speak), abnormal grammar and syntax, stilted speech, echolalia (repeating what is heard), difficulty remembering and using words, and others.
  • Other difficulties.

A lot can go wrong if we lose our frontal lobe functions. We need those brain parts - or at least one of them - all of our lives.

The brain is a marvel and the frontal lobes are the largest parts of it.
The brain is a marvel and the frontal lobes are the largest parts of it. | Source

© 2015 Patty Inglish


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 15 months ago from North America

      @Earl Hull - Sorry to hear that you are ill. First, find an effective doctor that will work with you for whatever treatment will be beneficial. Best wishes to you for good health!

    • profile image

      earl hull 15 months ago

      i have just recently found out about this disorder i now have. not sure what to do rite now.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 2 years ago from North America

      Using a keyboard at a computer in one way to exercise the mind, along with paying games on the computer! I remember that in Korea, some folks have a finger exercise that helps - just touching each finger to all the other finger tips. Thank you very much for your votes and sharing!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 2 years ago from Florida

      The brain and its function is an amazing organ. As I age, I am more interested in it. I try hard to exercise mine, to try to avoid dementia!

      The increase in cases now in autism is a real concern for parents, too.

      Lots of good info in this Hub, voted this UP, and shared.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 2 years ago from North America

      Thanks for the good word and stopping by and commenting! Brain development is important and apparently sometimes misunderstood.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

      Great message, Patty. Children do have frontal lobes and develop as they grow. Teens especially benefit from the increased development to maturity. Your wrote this well!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 2 years ago from North America

      @mckbirdbks - Yes, you and I are reliable and consistent :) At least you are :) ;)

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 2 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Your intellectual curiosity reaches far and wide. This is packed with clearly focal information. Your advice to take what you read on the Internet with a grain of salt is wise. (Unless of course they are reading you or me. :)

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 2 years ago from North America

      @CatherineGiordano - It could be just as you say. Also, young people could usually benefit from having older mentors to critique their decision-making processes; my sense is that many of the younger folks would rather it not be their parents. Some other cultures might love parental help.

      The particular article I read about frontal-lobeless people was written by an individual involved in healthcare, so my thought is that the training was not so good.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      I think the confusion about frontal lobes may have come from hearing that the frontal lobes are not fully developed until age 30 so some people might have thought that children don't have frontal lobes. I told my son he should consult me on all serious decisions until he was 30 because his decision making abilities would not be completely developed until then. He scoffed.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 2 years ago from North America

      @ MarkJohann - I can remember my first birthday, but never heard the no-frontal-lobes myth until the other day. What we DID hear in early grades was that all men and boys were missing the last rib on the left side (because the Biblical Adam's wife Eve was made from it), but that was cured when the Visible Man model on toy shelves was brought into the classroom!

    • Kylyssa profile image

      Kylyssa Shay 2 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      Wow! I'd never heard of this myth before. I had to Google the rats into bats myth, too. People latch onto the wildest things.

      For some reason this myth reminds me of all the women who put their birth control pills into the wrong orifices.

    • Mark Johann profile image

      Mark Johann 2 years ago from Italy

      It has been the conventional knowledge we learned in elementary or high school. Now that is has been proven that young ones have frontal lobes, their memories will last like we all know today. I still remember that old tree I used to play around when I was young about 2 years old.


    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 2 years ago from North America

      Maren Morgan M-T - You made me laugh out loud about fingers and hands. You brightened my evening! Now, I think that biological errors that have been taught can be used in good fantasy novels. Might as e;; put them to some use. :)

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 2 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I wondered what prompted this sort of hub from YOU, Patty Inglish! It's equivalent to needing to explain that hands have fingers from the start.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 2 years ago from North America

      It is an interesting predicament, isn't it, Ericdierker? I begin to wonder how much misinformation is actually in the public.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I am just blown away that people believe that little people have no frontal lobes. How bizarre. This is a very interesting article on the subject.