The Limbic System: Our Brain’s Emotional Powerhouse

Emotion may be one of the most important adaptations humans have developed. The experience of our environment...

Emotion may be one of the most important adaptations humans have developed. The experience of our environment through an emotional lens has given meaning to many of our natural drives (LeDoux, 2012). Happiness, fear, sadness, and many other emotions reinforced behaviors integral to survival in our ancestors. In the realm of research, no grouping of structures has more emotional implications than our Limbic System! Today, we are going to break down the Limbic system!


This consists of several brain structures that are thought to work together in circuit to produce our emotions and emotional behavior (Queensland Brain Institute, 2017). While scientists do not agree on the exact locations in the brain that encompass this circuit, it is generally agreed upon that it includes the hippocampus, amygdala, hypothalamus, and cingulate cortex. The hippocampus functions in the generation of autobiographical memories, facts, and spatial memory, as well as the long-term storage of memory throughout the brain (Britannica, 2021). The amygdala is involved with fear, anxiety, and strong emotional behavior (Ressler, 2010). The hypothalamus connects the nervous system with our endocrine system. It’s specific functions relate to our natural drives, and are often simplified to the “4 F’s”: Feeding, Fleeing, Fighting, Fornicating (Shahid, Asuka, & Gurdeep, 2020). Lastly, the cingulate cortex is believed to be involved in processing of social information, introspection, and arousal (Apps, Rushworth, & Chang, 2016; Leech & Sharp, 2013). Together these regions process information from our environment in relation to our own experiences. This, in turn, forms our affect (combination of mood and emotion)!

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