Decoding the Brain: Exploring the Complexities of the Limbic System

Limbic system

Hey to all have a good day. Whenever a horror movie frightens you and your heart starts to pound, it is the limbic system kicking into high gear. Goosebumps and hunger pangs also partly come from this system. Memories arise here, and movies like Memento and 50 First Dates show what can happen when a part of the limbic system is damaged. The limbic system is where our initial emotional responses originate. It is primarily associated with emotions such as fear, aggression, sexual attraction, memory, learning, and smell. The name “limbic system” comes from the Latin word limbus, which means border.

Physically, the limbic system lies at the border of two parts of the brain—the neocortex and the brainstem. It acts like a bridge between the neocortex—the part of the brain that helps us to think, reason, and consciously process our emotions—and the brainstem—a part of the brain that does the autopilot work of keeping the body alive without conscious thinking. So, to which part of the brain does the limbic system belong? Well, the limbic system is not one part, but rather a collection of different parts of the brain that scientists have grouped together.

Limbic system

However, scientists have not reached a consensus on which parts should compose the limbic system. With that said, some important parts of the brain are central to the limbic system: the thalamus, hypothalamus, amygdala, and hippocampus. An important point here is that, although we say “parts of the limbic system,” all of these structures are connected with each other and with other parts of the brain, such as the cortex. The thalamus The thalamus is called the relay center of the brain. It decides which sensory inputs must go where, or whether the brain should ignore something altogether. Imagine you’re watching a horror film.

The optic nerve in your retina will relay the visual information to the thalamus, which then decides whether that information is important enough to pay attention to. If so, it sends the information to the relevant parts of the brain. This occurs for most senses except our sense of smell. Olfactory information goes directly to the olfactory bulbs, but there is evidence that the olfactory bulbs are connected to the thalamus. You can check out the description box to learn more. The amygdala The amygdala is a small almond-shaped structure responsible for fear, anxiety, aggression, sexual attraction, and pleasure.

The fear that you feel during a horror movie or when you stand on the edge of a cliff is due to the amygdala. The attraction you may have to someone is also partially due to the amygdala. Think of the amygdala as your built-in spidey sense. The hypothalamus The hypothalamus is the critical connection between the brain and the body. It releases its own hormones and also controls other glands to bring about necessary changes in the body. It is responsible for maintaining homeostasis or balance in the body. It regulates the sleep-wake cycle, body temperature, and hunger, and is also the reason why your body can “feel” the emotions of your brain. For example, in response to a horror movie, the hypothalamus receives a signal from the amygdala that something frightening is being presented. The hypothalamus then triggers the fear response, better known as the flight or fight response, or an adrenaline rush.

For this reason, the hypothalamus is called the “master regulator of the endocrine system”. The hippocampus The fourth and final structure is the hippocampus. This structure looks a bit like a seahorse—hence the name, which means seahorse in Greek—and is mainly related to learning and memory, especially in converting short-term memory into long-term memory. Thus, your childhood memories have a long life due to the hippocampus. The hippocampus also allows you to remember important facts for your exams! We know the limbic system’s functions, in part, because of the behavior of humans and certain animals when these parts are either completely or partially damaged.

If the amygdala is partially damaged, an individual feels less fear, becomes hypersexual and mellow, among other symptoms. Medically, this is called Kluver-Bucy syndrome. SM is a patient whose amygdalas were both destroyed. The patient could famously not feel fear, nor could she recognize it in other people. Researchers made her hold snakes and spiders, showed her horror films, and even took her to a haunted house, but she showed no signs of being afraid. Those with a damaged hippocampus cannot convert short-term memories into long-term ones, which means they will only be able to remember something for a few minutes or even seconds before forgetting it. All the memories formed before the hippocampus is damaged are secure, but no new ones can form.

This condition is called anterograde amnesia, most popularly seen in the movies Memento and 50 First Dates. Depending on the extent of the damage and which parts of the hypothalamus have been damaged, the consequences can include changes in appetite, temperature control, sleep, and mood. Lastly, results of damage to the thalamus may include loss of senses, decreased balance and coordination, and pain-related issues. The effects depend on the extent of the damage and which part of the thalamus has been damaged. Today, we study the brain using brain imaging techniques like fMRI and PET scans, and we can even look into the brain’s neurons and molecules. We have discovered so much about the brain and the limbic system in this way, but there are so many more questions still left to be answered.

Spread the love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *