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The Limbic System


The limbic system is a complex set of structures that lies on both sides and underneath the thalamus, just under the cerebrum.

The Limbic system is the emotional control center of the brain. It initially evolved to manage 'fight' or 'flight' chemicals necessary for survival in early mammals. In general terms it refers to the brain region associated with emotion, memory and behavior.

The Limbic System operates by influencing the endocrine system and the autonomic nervous system and is also tightly connected to the prefrontal cortex.This connection is seen by some scientists as relating to the pleasure obtained from solving problems.

The limbic system [Paleomammalian brain] is a set of brain structures including the:

  • Hippocampus - involved in long term memory
  • Amygdala - involved in signaling the cortex of motivationally significant stimuli such as those related to the acquisition, storage, and expression of fear memory. It is responsible for controlling aggression.
  • Hypothalamus - regulates the autonomic nervous system via hormone production and release, working to restore the body to equalibrium. For instance, a protein called leptin released by fat cells when we overeat is sensed by the hypothalamus and responds by decreasing appetite. It regulates blood pressure, heartrate, breathing, digestion, sweating, and all the sympathetic and parasympathetic functions.
  • Cingulate gyrus - part of the cerebrum that lies closest to the limbic system, provides a pathway from the thalamus to the hippocampus, focusing attention on emotionally significant events, and for associating memories to smells and to pain.
  • Limbic cortex - which support a variety of functions including emotion, behavior, long term memory, and olfaction


Video - Brain Mind Lecture 6: Limbic System

An Introductory Overview: Amygdala, Hypothalamus, Hippocampus, Hallucinations, Memory, Emotion, Sexuality, Amnesia, Flashbacks, PTSD. Rhawn Joseph, Ph.D.


NOTE: To reduce confusion, all CT images have been reversed so damage on the left appears on the left, and right sided damage appear on the right.

In the 1970s he proved/discovered:

  • the role of early environmental influences on learning, memory, attention, and impulse control
  • the role of sex hormones and the lack of sex hormones on sex differences in behavior, cognition, learning, memory, and spatial ability
  • neurplasticity and recovery of function in the primate brain and is considered one of the founding fathers of the field of Developmental Neuropsychology.

Dr. Joseph also published major scientific discoveries on "split-brain" functioning and the duality of consciousness. He coined the term "limbic language."

Next: The Parietal Lobes of the Brain

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