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The Limbic System

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The Limbic System

How are we able to remember events in our life? What allows us to learn new things? What makes us afraid of that dog in the neighborhood?

If we were to ask our limbic system these questions, we would find answers. Let's take a deep dive into our brain where the limbic system lies.

  • What is the limbic system?
  • What are the parts of the limbic system?
  • What happens when the limbic system is damaged?

Limbic System Definition

The limbic system is an intricate and important part of the brain, as it regulates learning, memories, and emotions. More specifically, the limbic system is in charge of our most instinctual survival behaviors such as fight-or-flight response, feeding, and reproduction. You can think of the limbic system as a mixture of our higher thinking and functioning and our primitive emotions.

We have it in common with other animals such as other mammals, fish, and reptiles. It contains important areas of the brain, like the hippocampus and the amygdala. Where in the brain is it located? Let's take a deeper look.

The Limbic System illustration of the human brain StudySmarterThe human brain, pixabay.com

If you were to open the brain, you would find the limbic system within the cerebrum, underneath the temporal lobes and the cerebral cortex.

Structure and Parts of the Limbic System

The limbic system houses several major areas that are significant to certain functions of the brain.

Limbic Lobe

This is the first major lobe area of the limbic system. It has three gyri.

  • Cingulate Gyrus - The cingulate gyrus regulates our conscious functions, and our automatic functions such as an increase in heart rate when we are afraid; as an example, when we choose to run in the face of danger.

  • Parahippocampal Gyrus - This area helps us navigate our way around, or find a specific location.

  • Dentate Gyrus - The dentate gyrus is a large and important component of the limbic system; more specifically, the hippocampal region. It is in charge of creating episodic memories as well as memories of new environments. The dentate gyrus has three significant layers; the molecular layer, granule cell layer, and polymorphic layer. The prime directive or objective for this portion of the brain is to act as a communicator to the hippocampus to deliver information.

Amygdala

This almond-shaped area of the brain is located near the hippocampus and has a left and right side. It is in charge of our emotional responses like fear or pleasure. An interesting concept within the amygdala is the impression of emotions on memory. The amygdala can attach emotions to a memory, allowing it to be better remembered.

An example could be a special birthday party you had as a child, or, on the flip side, being afraid when the neighborhood dog chases you home.

The Limbic System a child's birthday party will be more memorable StudySmarterBirthday party, pixabay.com

Hippocampus

The area of the limbic system called the Hippocampus means "seahorse" in Greek, and is shaped much like the creature itself. The hippocampus is in charge of our memories. It is a pairing between the two parts of the brain, or hemispheres. We can think of the hippocampus as a packaging warehouse for our memories. In this warehouse, the packages or our episodic memories are readied for long-term storage in other parts of the cerebral cortex. These memories are associated with sensations; this too takes place in the hippocampus. An example would be how the smell of fresh laundry perhaps reminds you of a family member. Another important factor that lives within the hippocampus is the spatial orientation that helps us navigate as we move around.

Hypothalamus and Thalamus

At the center of the limbic system lies the hypothalamus. It is in charge of our feelings of hunger, sexual arousal, regulation of body temperature and sleep cycles, and the release of hormones. Oxytocin, or the love hormone, is released in the hypothalamus.

Lesions of the hypothalamus influence unconscious functions and some motivated behaviors like combativeness and hunger. The lateral parts are involved with pleasure and rage. Lastly, the medial part is linked to aversions and displeasures.

The thalamus is in charge of our perception and all of our motor functions. The sensation of touching something soft, smelling something sweet, or seeing something frightening, is a message to the thalamus.

Damages to the Limbic System

Because the limbic system is a powerhouse of information processing for our nervous system, any damage can be detrimental. The most common medical conditions for those with damage within the limbic system are:

  • Schizophrenia

  • Epilepsy

  • Autistic spectrum disorders

The Limbic System - Key takeaways

  • The limbic system regulates our learning, memories, and emotions.
  • The limbic system regulates internal survival behaviors such as the fight-or-flight response, feeding, and reproduction.
  • You can think of the limbic system as a mixture of our higher thinking and functioning with our primitive emotions.
  • The limbic system lies within the cerebrum portion of the brain, underneath the temporal lobes, and the cerebral cortex.
  • There are different components of the limbic system; these include the limbic lobe, amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus, and thalamus.
    • The limbus lobe is made up of gyri; the cingulate gyrus, parahippocampal gyrus, and the dentate gyrus.
    • The amygdala is in charge of our emotional responses like fear or pleasure.
    • The hippocampus is in charge of our memories.
    • The hypothalamus is in charge of our feelings of hunger and sexuality. It also regulates body temperature and sleep cycles, and releases hormones.
    • The thalamus is in charge of our perception and all of our motor functions.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Limbic System

The limbic system is an intricate and important part of the brain, as it regulates learning, memories, and emotions.
Even more specifically, the limbic system is in charge of our most instinctual survival behaviors such as fight-or-flight response, feeding, and reproduction.

If you were to open the brain, you would find the limbic system within the cerebrum, underneath the temporal lobes and the cerebral cortex.

There are different components of the limbic system; these include the limbic lobe, amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus, and thalamus.

The limbic system regulates internal survival behaviors such as the fight-or-flight response, feeding, and reproduction. You can think of the limbic system as a mixture of our higher thinking and functioning with our primitive emotions

Yes. The hypothalamus is in charge of our feelings of hunger and sexuality. It also regulates body temperature and sleep cycles and releases hormones.

Final The Limbic System Quiz

Question

What is the limbic system in charge of? (Choose one)

A. Digestion

B. Behaviors and thoughts

C. Personality

Show answer

Answer

B. Behaviors and thoughts

Show question

Question

The limbic system is unique only to humans. True or false?

Show answer

Answer

False

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Question

The limbic system is specifically located in the:

A. Cerebrum

B. Amygdala

C. Lymph nodes

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Answer

A. Cerebrum

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Question

The limbic lobe is the same as the limbic system. True or false?

Show answer

Answer

False: The limbic lobe is the first major lobe area of the limbic system.

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Question

What are the three gyri of the limbic lobe?

Show answer

Answer

The cingulate gyrus, parahippocampal gyrus, and dentate gyrus.

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Question

What are the three layers of the dentate gyrus?

Show answer

Answer

The molecular layer, granule cell layer, and polymorphic layer.

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Question

What is the amygdala in charge of?


Show answer

Answer

Emotional responses such as fear and pleasure as well as emotional imprinting. 

Show question

Question

The hippocampus is in the shape of an almond. True or false?

Show answer

Answer

False: The hippocampus is in the shape of a seahorse. 

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Question

What is the hippocampus in charge of?

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Answer

Episodic memories are readied here for long-term storage along the cerebral cortex. Spatial orientation happens here as well.

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Question

What is the hypothalamus in charge of?

Show answer

Answer

Feelings of hunger and sexuality. It also regulates body temperature and sleep cycles, and releases hormones.

Show question

Question

What is an example of a hormone that is released in the hypothalamus? 

Show answer

Answer

Oxytocin

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Question

What is the thalamus in charge of?


Show answer

Answer

Perception and motor functions.

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Question

What are three possible medical conditions from a damaged limbic system?

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Answer

Autistic spectrum disorders, epilepsy, schizophrenia.

Show question

Question

Why is the thalamus important?

Show answer

Answer

It's in charge of our five senses.

Show question

Question

The limbic system is one major lobe in the brain. True or false?


Show answer

Answer

False: The limbic system is made up of many parts such as the amygdala and the hippocampus.

Show question

Question

Which of these are NOT part of the limbic system?


A. Hippocampus

B. Hypothalamus

C. Amygdala

D.  Cingulate Gyrus

E. These are all part of the Limbic System 

Show answer

Answer

E. These are all part of the Limbic System

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Question

What are the three important gyri? 

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Answer

  • Cingulate Gyrus - The cingulate gyrus regulates our conscious functions, and our automatic functions such as an increase in heart rate when we are afraid; as an example, when we choose to run in the face of danger.

  • Parahippocampal Gyrus - This area helps us navigate our way around, or find a specific location. 

  • Dentate Gyrus - The dentate gyrus is a large and important component of the limbic system; more specifically, the hippocampal region. It is in charge of creating episodic memories as well as memories of new environments. The dentate gyrus has three significant layers; the molecular layer, granule cell layer, and polymorphic layer. The prime directive or objective for this portion of the brain is to act as a communicator to the hippocampus to deliver information.  

Show question

Question

What is the main responsibility of the amygdala?

Show answer

Answer

It is in charge of our emotional responses like fear or pleasure. An interesting concept within the amygdala is the impression of emotions on memory. The amygdala can attach emotions to a memory, allowing it to be better remembered.

Show question

Question

What area of the limbic system would be in charge of our feelings of fear?

Show answer

Answer

C. Amygdala

Show question

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