Occipital lobe

The occipital lobe is the smallest of the four lobes of the brain. It sits posterior to the temporal lobe and parietal lobes, underlying the occipital bone and overlying the tentorium cerebelli. Its most notable functional component is the primary and secondary visual cortex.

The occipital lobe is the smallest lobe accounting for only 18% of the total neocortical volume 10. The boundaries of the occipital lobe have been arbitrarily defined, giving it a triangular shape 1. It is separated from the parietal and temporal lobes on the medial surface by the parieto-occipital sulcus and on the lateral side by the lateral parietotemporal line, an imaginary line extending from the preoccipital notch to the parieto-occipital sulcus. The tentorium cerebelli forms its inferior border and the occipital bone its posterior margin.

Functional areas

The occipital lobe is concerned with visual processing and is composed of three Brodmann areas:

Sulci and gyri

The occipital lobe has a predictable medial gyral anatomy. 

The lateral surface of the occipital lobe is highly variable, reflected by the literature which is either vague or contradictory. As such, care must be taken in using specific anatomical terms as readers may have different interpretation of the same anatomy. 

The simplest description, which conforms to the sulcal pattern found in the frontal and temporal lobes, unfortunately is only present in approximately two thirds of cases 1. When present the lateral surface  is divided into three roughly parallel gyri (superior, middle and inferior occipital gyri) by two transverse occipital sulci (referred to as superior and inferior when both are present)1

  • branches of the posterior cerebral artery (PCA) 6
    • parieto-occipital artery
    • calcarine artery
    • posterior temporal artery
    • common temporal artery/ temporo-occipital artery/ lateral occipital artery
    • lingual gyrus artery
      • not found in all individuals

Neuroanatomy
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Article Information

rID: 38942
Section: Anatomy
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Occipital lobes

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Cases and Figures

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    Figure 1: occipital lobe boundaries
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    Figure 2: occipital lobe sulci
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    Figure 3: occipital lobe gyri
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    Locations of the ...
    Figure 4: visual cortical system
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