What Are the Major Functions of the Limbic System?

Medically Reviewed on 3/26/2021
The limbic system is a part of the brain that deals with three major functions
The limbic system is a part of the brain that deals with three major functions

The limbic system is a part of the brain that deals with three major functions:

  • Emotions
  • Memories
  • Arousal

The limbic system comprises several parts.

Limbic lobe

It is the first significant lobe of the limbic system. The two parts of this region include:

  • Cingulate gyrus: It regulates both autonomic (automatic) and conscious function. Its functions include:
    • An increase in heart rate during a threat in the environment.
    • Taking voluntary choices, such as the decision to react to a threat by fighting or running away.
  • Parahippocampal gyrus: It deals with spatial memory or memory. It has a role in dealing with location and navigation to reach a specific place.

Thalamus

The key function of the thalamus involves detecting and transmitting senses, such as sight, sound, taste, and touch. It organizes the information and sends it to the areas in the brain where the suitable response would be elicited. The thalamus also has a role in pain perception. So, any kind of pain, physical or emotional, is processed here.

Hypothalamus

It is the vital portion of the limbic system. Hypothalamus is responsible for producing various hormones required by the body. It also has various stations, which control the following functions:

  • Controlling water levels in the body
  • Regulating sleep cycles
  • Maintaining body temperature
  • Feeding behavior

Amygdala

They are two almond-shaped structures present in the limbic system. Amygdala is responsible for:

  • The development of feelings of bonding of a mother to a child.
  • The development of memories related to emotional events and emergencies.
  • Preparing the body for an emergency (e.g., being startled).
  • Storing memories and events for future acknowledgment.
  • Pleasure and sexual arousal.
  • Development of fear emotion.

Hippocampus

The hippocampus is a horn-shaped structure present in the limbic system. The central function of the hippocampus is to:

  • Process new information and form long-term memories, which are then stored in the other regions throughout the brain.
  • Help us associate memories with various senses (e.g., the relation between Christmas and gingerbread).
  • Assist in learning new information.

Hippocampus is the area where new neurons are produced from the adult stem cells.

Basal ganglia

Basal ganglia are involved in:

  • Reward processing
  • Habit formation
  • Movement and learning

What are the medical conditions associated with the damaged limbic system?

Some of the repercussions of the damaged limbic system include:

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Medically Reviewed on 3/26/2021
References
Rajmohan V, Mohandas E. The limbic system. Indian J Psychiatry. 2007;49(2):132-139. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2917081/

The University of Queensland. The Limbic System. https://qbi.uq.edu.au/brain/brain-anatomy/limbic-system