Why would it be in your best interest to understand the limbic system function?
Addictions, trauma, emotional reactions, PTSD, autoimmune disorders, chronic stress disorders and hormone imbalances can all relate back to the limbic system function. So understanding how it works & how to rewire it can be a complete game changer in optimising your health emotionally and physically. So in this blog, we will talk about the Triune brain model, what the limbic system is, the limbic system function, and limbic health treatment.
The Triune Brain Model
To begin with we will give you a brief understanding of how the brain works. The brain is divided into three main sections:
The Lizard Brain or Reptilian Brain
The lizard brain or reptilian brain scans for immediate danger, this works 24/7. It governs the initial fight or flight response for your safety. Should the threat remain, the limbic or mammal brain kicks in.
The Limbic Brain
The limbic brain attaches emotions, memories, and habits to a threat (usually a longer-term threat than what the reptilian brain needs to react to). The decisions made are of a nature to keep you safe from continual or emotional threats.
The Human or Logical Brain
The human or logical brain governs language, thought, and rationalisation. This is formed following the limbic response.
Now to give you a real-life example of how these 3 parts of the brain work together in everyday life. Let’s say that you stubbed your toe on the couch. First off, the reptilian response kicks in;
The reptilian response: Stubbed toe equals pain and immediate danger requiring a response.
The limbic brain response: How could you be so dumb to stub your toes, you always do this (seeking evidence, you may have stubbed a toe once or twice before). The emotion is of guilt, self-pity or clumsiness.
The human brain response: Avoid the area of the room as this has happened before and it makes you feel clumsy, you are not safe.
Now let’s go more into the limbic system function and why it is so important in regards to optimising your emotional and physical well-being.
What is the Limbic System?
The limbic system is a part of the brain that is largely in charge of our emotional lives and plays a significant role in memory formation.
The entire nervous system is involved with emotions however the limbic system and the autonomic nervous system are two areas that are particularly important, especially those that are necessary for survival.
Feelings of motivation and reward, learning, memory, the fight or flight response, hunger, thirst, and the production of hormones that help regulate the autonomic nervous system are all associated with the limbic system.
The autonomic nervous system supports automatic, unconscious processes including controlling the body’s internal clock and controlling thirst, appetite, and heart rate.
The limbic system is a set of brain structures that play a role in memory, learning, and emotional control. The hippocampus and amygdala are key parts of the limbic system, and they are important for memory, learning, and long-term memory storage. The body also uses the amygdala to process emotions. Memory, learning, and emotional control can all be impacted by issues with these structures. The hypothalamus is also a component of the limbic system, and it performs a variety of tasks by producing hormones that support homeostasis.
Roles of the Limbic System
1. Motivation, Reward and Addiction
The limbic system is a part of the brain that plays a role in controlling conscious and unconscious activities. It helps us feel motivated to learn, meet new people, or try new experiences.
Drug and alcohol abuse can change the workings of the limbic system, leading to addiction. Addiction can gradually decrease the brain’s dopamine reserves, making it challenging to experience pleasure without the use of drugs. This is why many people with addictions find it difficult to break free from activities that were once enjoyable.
2. Emotional Reactions
The amygdala and hippocampus are responsible for regulating emotions, especially older emotions that are important for survival. These two brain areas work together to keep us feeling happy, scared, and anxious in the right way. The amygdala helps the brain develop fearful memories, while the hippocampus helps form memories associated with sensory input. When memories of a particular smell or taste are recalled, the hippocampus is responsible for helping to interpret the emotional content of those memories.
The amygdala and hippocampus are important parts of the brain that help us form new memories, store those memories, retrieve them, and make sense of their emotional content. In the development of long-term memory, the hippocampus is extremely significant. It also supports spatial memory and spatial reasoning.
4.The Fight or Flight Response
The limbic system helps the body respond to intense emotions such as fear and anger by activating the fight or flight response. This response is also sometimes called the fight, flight, or freeze response, thanks to new evidence indicating that freezing may play a role in response to danger.
The amygdala is responsible for activating the limbic system, which prepares the body to handle a threat. The adrenal glands release hormones like epinephrine, which increase breathing rate, blood flow to muscles and organs, and blood pressure.
Chronic stress can harm the body by damagingly activating the limbic system. This can happen over time, leading to problems such as high blood pressure, changes in appetite, and damage to blood vessels.
5. Physiological Effects of Hormones
Hormones help the body respond to what’s happening around it. For example, they help the body control its automatic functions, like digesting food and breathing.
The hypothalamus is in charge of producing hormones that have an impact on a variety of emotions, such as discomfort, thirst, hunger, pleasure, sexual sensations, anger, and aggressiveness. It also helps to keep the body in balance by regulating the autonomic nervous system.
The vagus nerve sends information to the brain stem about things like blood pressure and how full the stomach is. This information helps to control appetite and blood pressure. The brain stem also sends information about temperature to the body. This information helps to manage the body’s response to heat or cold. The body’s internal clock, the circadian rhythm, is also regulated based on information from the brain stem.
6. Learning and Attention
The limbic system is important for forming new memories and for regulating how much attention we pay to things. Some scientists believe that people with ADHD have enlarged hippocampi, which may be a way of compensating for problems with their hippocampi’s ability to regulate attention. The hippocampus is also responsible for creating new neurons from stem cells, which supports the ability to learn new things. Research on the brains of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias has found that the disease attacks the hippocampus. This may help to explain why, even while long-term memories are still intact, dementia rapidly impairs the capacity to learn new things.
The limbic system is a dynamic part of the brain that is affected by what a person experiences in their environment. This can help explain why people’s psychological and physiological experiences change over time. Some disorders can damage this system, which can lead to problems with emotions and the risk of stress-related disorders.
The limbic brain kicks in with long-term stress, PTSD, addiction, self-punishment, relationship trauma, and more.
The good news is that there are several therapies that are evidenced based and found to be helpful in resolving issues with limbic health and can be very impactful, especially in treating trauma.
Limbic Health Treatments
Results based coaching
Results-based coaching helps give people the tools to cope with the changes in their life without reliving it in ‘talk therapy’. We help people detach from the charge or energy of an incident, memory, feeling, or even an illness.
Who can benefit from Results based coaching?
Anyone can benefit from results-based coaching but it is particularly beneficial for people who have experienced childhood trauma. In our root cause analysis, we have a section that covers ACES (Adverse Childhood Experience Score/ACRES (Adverse Childhood Relationship Experiences Score) and so if we find that trauma might be a component in your health concerns we can provide free info and advice on improving your situation and talk about the limbic system work we do in more detail. Alternatively, if you are just curious about whether trauma might be affecting you, take the ACES test. For people who get a score of 3 or more, it can be extremely beneficial for trauma recovery.
PNEI training can also help in this area. The limbic brain works with all other systems, particularly the PNEI pathway. The whole idea is TO KEEP YOU SAFE. So the limbic response pulls strings with the big systems, it sways the human brain (P), charges the nervous system for extended fight or flight (N), rallies hormones to provide evidence to sure up the response (E), and then the immune comes in to KEEP YOU SAFE (I) ending with the autoimmune cascade if not stopped, but starting with as little as a head cold.
We hope you found this blog helpful. If you have any questions about the Limbic system function, results-based training, or PNEI, please contact us, post a comment below, or get your root cause analysis, where we can give you a wealth of information about your unique emotional and physical health situation.