Our Limbic System

What's the system in our brain that is responsible for behavioral and emotional responses?

And the answer: Limbic.

The brain's limbic system supports a variety of functions including emotion, behavior, and long-term memory. Emotional life is largely housed in the limbic system, and it plays an important role in the formation of memories.

Photo credit: simplypsychology.com

The word "limbic" comes from the Latin word "limbus," meaning border. The limbic system was given this name because its structures lie along a horseshoe shaped area of the cortex, just between the cerebral cortex and diencephalon. However, there is little consensus between scientists as to just what exactly comprises the limbic system, with some arguing that it's too simplistic to consider something as complex as emotion within a single unit of brain structures.

Discourse aside, the limbic system tends to contain several key structures. The amygdala, for one, is an almond-shaped collection of nuclei in the temporal lobe that is most prominently associated with reactions of fear and anxiety. Meanwhile, the hippocampus connects with the amygdala, and although it's considered part of the limbic system, the hippocampus is generally associated with memory rather than emotion. Beyond that, the parahippocampal gyrus, cingulate cortex, septal nuclei, mammillary bodies, fornix and hypothalamus (extra points if you can pronounce them) are all structures that are commonly associated with the limbic system's control and release of emotions. These bodies, while largely interconnected and complex, are often the site of scientific research and exploration in this multi-faceted neural system.

See these structures for yourself by checking out the video below.

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