By: Catherine Joachin
What is the occipital lobe?
The occipital lobe is the hindmost region of the human brain. It hosts the visual cortex, which analyzes the visual information detected by the eyes and breaks down the components of visual stimulus in order for the brain to discern the different characteristics of the environment (Cleveland Clinic, 2022).
Functions of the occipital lobe
The occipital lobe is the visual processing center of the brain. Visual stimulus is initially processed by the primary visual cortex (V1), also referred to as the striate cortex. The integrated visual information is then dissected by the secondary visual cortex and visual association areas (Rehman, 2023). Through reciprocal interactions between these regions, the occipital lobe encodes for spatial information, width, depth, distance, object recognition, color, and face recognition (Rehman, 2023).
Occipital brain activity can still be observed in people suffering from congenital blindness regardless, suggesting that the occipital lobe can process information from other sensory modalities as a result of neuroplasticity (Cleveland Clinic, 2022). The occipital lobe is also believed to be involved in memory formation (Rehman, 2023).
Complications of the occipital lobe
Damage to the occipital lobe can lead to difficulties in spatial processing, color processing, object or face recognition, and depth perception (Cleveland Clinic, 2022). Other common related problems include vision loss, epilepsy, difficulties with fine and gross motor skills, seeing hallucinations and difficulties in recognizing drawings, reading, and writing (Queensland Health, 2022).
Complications that are epilepsy related
Occipital lobe epilepsy (OLE) refers to an uncommon condition in which seizures originate in the back of the brain. OLE seizures have been associated with experiencing blurry or loss of vision, visual hallucinations (e.g., witnessing the appearance of light), and repetitive, uncontrolled eye movements (Chen et al., 2017; Rehman, 2023). Individuals with this condition can be sensitive to light, as seizures can be induced by flickering bright lights or the presentation of an image (Rehman, 2023).
Treatment options for epilepsy complications
The first line of treatment for occipital epileptic seizures is generally the administration of an anticonvulsant medication such as carbamazepine (Chen et al., 2017). For individuals with drug-resistant symptomatic epilepsy, neurosurgery can be envisioned (Johns Hopkins, 2021). While this option has proven to be successful, locating an epileptogenic zone through the use of functional imaging techniques is difficult, and the procedure can lead to unpleasant consequences, for instance postoperative visual deficits (Rehman, 2023).
The occipital lobe is the visual mapping center of the brain. Among other visual functions, it is responsible for discerning color, perceiving motion, recognizing familiar faces, and identifying objects. Damage to this part of the brain could result in impairments in any of these tasks on top of varying degrees of vision loss and epilepsy-related complications.
Chen, S., Chen, Z., Wang, S., Wu, T., Zhou, D., Li, Q., & Cotton, J. (2017, December 19). Treatments for the idiopathic occipital lobe epilepsies. The Cochrane Library; Elsevier BV. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.cd012895
Cleveland Clinic. (2022). Occipital Lobe. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from: https:// my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/24498-occipital-lobe
Rehman, A. (2023). Neuroanatomy, Occipital Lobe. StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK544320/
Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2021). Focal Epilepsy. Johns Hopkins Medicine. https:// hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/epilepsy/focal-epilepsy
Queensland Health. (2022). Brain Map: Occipital Lobes. Queensland Health. Retrieved from: https://www.health.qld.gov.au/abios/asp/boccipital