What Part Of The Brain Controls Emotions – Our mood is a transient mental state that affects how we think and see the world. David Shapp/Unsplash, CC BY
Genevieve Reiner does not work for, consult with, own stock in, or receive funding from any company or organization that could benefit from this article and has disclosed no relevant affiliations other than her academic position.
What Part Of The Brain Controls Emotions
The brain is the key to our survival, but neuroscience has a long way to go before we can truly understand its amazing capabilities. Meanwhile, our Brain Control series explores what we know about the control of six central brain functions: language, mood, memory, vision, personality and motor skills, and what happens when something goes wrong.
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I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. You know the opinion; something that rarely makes you feel for the world (or the person who says it). Other times, you feel especially kind and sunny for no apparent reason.
Our mood is a transient mental state that affects how we think and see the world. It is affected by events in our lives, the amount of sleep, hormones, and even the weather. But what role does the brain play in shaping our moods?
Many of the regions that determine mood are hidden deep in the most primitive parts of the brain; that is, they are believed to be one of the first to develop in humans. This is probably due to the fact that this mood has an evolutionary meaning.
Being pessimistic can be useful and has shown, for example, that we pay attention to detail. But in general, the brain seems to be wired to maintain a normal positive mood. When we are in a good mood, we seek out new experiences, are creative, plan ahead, procreate, and adapt to changing environments.
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The limbic system is the main brain network responsible for mood. It is a network of regions that work together to process and understand the world.
If you’re feeling good, the hippocampus can guide you down a daffodil-lined path. From Shutterstock.com
Neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine are used as chemical messengers to send signals through the network. Areas of the brain receive these signals, leading us to recognize objects and situations, attach emotional value to them to guide behavior, and make split-second risk/reward assessments.
The limbic system is located beneath the cerebrum (the largest and newest part of the brain) and consists of structures such as the hypothalamus, hippocampus, and amygdala.
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The amygdala gives emotional meaning to events and memories. This emotion attracted the attention of researchers in 1939 when tonsil-removed monkeys exhibited strange behavior. They were fearless, hypersexual and aggressive without emotion or logic.
Called Kluwer-Busy syndrome, this is rare in humans, but can be seen in people with damage to the amygdala, such as after brain inflammation.
The hippocampus, on the other hand, reminds us what actions match our mood. For example, if you’re feeling great, you can walk down a path lined with daffodils. If you’re feeling down, you might be interested in a bar playing melancholic Smiths albums instead.
The hippocampus has been shown to shrink in people with chronic depression. This may explain common features of the condition, such as vague or unspecific recall of personal memories.
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The limbic system also regulates biological functions in response to our moods, such as increased heart rate and sweating caused by feelings of arousal. However, for being so old, the limbic system is very simple. In everyday life, this is controlled by some new networks that coordinate our thoughts and actions, so that our behavior always achieves long-term goals, rather than going where our moods want us to go.
Researchers are increasingly turning to new networks to understand how the brain controls mood. Two specific networks that have been highlighted in many studies are the autobiographical memory network and the cognitive control network.
The autobiographical memory network processes information about us, including recall of personal memories and self-reflection. The main centers of this network include brain regions within the prefrontal cortex, located at the front of the brain; hippocampus; the posterior cingulate cortex, which is the upper part of the limbic lobe; and the parietal regions, located behind the frontal lobe and important for mental imagery.
The cognitive control network connects the areas that coordinate our attention and concentration so that we can complete tasks. It integrates the anterior cingulate and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex circuits, which are specialized for cool, dispassionate, rational thinking.
Brain Structural Related To The Limbic System, Adopted From .
The autobiographical memory network is activated when someone is thinking about themselves. Mitya Ku/Flickr, CC BY
It is believed that there is a strained relationship between the two networks. The autobiographical memory network is activated when someone is thinking about themselves. This disables the task-oriented network of cognitive control, thereby reducing our ability to complete whatever task we have to perform. That’s why I don’t like to fantasize at work.
Conversely, the autobiographical memory network is suppressed when the cognitive control network needs to focus on the task at hand. This is consistent with the notion that when we become immersed in something, we “lose ourselves.”
When both networks malfunction, it can lead to what psychiatrists call a mood disorder.
What Part Of The Brain Controls Emotions?
The two main types of affective disorders are depressive disorders, characterized by persistent depressed mood, and bipolar disorder, characterized by periods of extreme high or manic mood alternating with periods of depressed mood.
In depressive disorders, the network of autobiographical memories is disrupted. This leads to symptoms such as thinking “too much of yourself,” brooding, and self-loathing. Simultaneous suppression of the cognitive control network produces symptoms such as impaired concentration, indecisiveness, and slow thinking.
Treatments for depressive disorders, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation, involve stimulating the cognitive control network to improve its functioning. And the drugs are aimed at restoring normal levels of neurochemicals that interact between the two networks and the limbic system.
Many psychological treatments allow the sufferer to control their mood. They often teach a person to activate a cognitive control network, such as resisting negative thoughts, reinforcing them over time. They also appear to disrupt the dominance of the autobiographical memory network through methods such as reminiscence.
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While there is a need to try to understand the neuroscience behind mood disorders, there is a desire in psychology to study mood to focus more on the positives in each person’s psychology; including, for example, building resilience and our own strengths.
However, like the zeitgeist itself, research into the brain’s role in these functions is in its infancy. can bring out the animal’s potential abilities. This is because the brains of all animals are very similar in general shape. Every animal has a multilayered brain and the basic structures of the brain are similar (see Figure 4.5, Basic Structures of the Human Brain). The innermost structures of the brain – the parts closest to the spinal cord – are the oldest part of the brain, and these areas perform the same functions as our distant ancestors. The “old brain” regulates basic survival functions such as breathing, movement, rest, and eating, and creates our emotional experience. Mammals, including humans, have evolved additional layers of the brain to enable advanced functions such as better memory, complex social interactions, and the ability to experience emotions. Humans have a very large and well-developed outer layer
Figure 4.6. Cortex. Humans have a very large and well-developed outer layer of the brain called the cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex gives humans excellent memory, excellent cognitive abilities, and the ability to experience complex emotions.
. It is responsible for controlling the most basic life functions, including breathing, attention, and motor responses (Figure 4.7, “Brain Stem and Thalamus”). The brain stem begins at the point where the spinal cord enters the skull and forms the medulla oblongata,
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. In most cases, one medulla oblongata is enough to sustain life – animals with the rest of the brain severed above the brain can still eat, breathe and even move. A spherical shape above the medulla oblongata is a bridge,
A structure in the brainstem that helps control body movement and plays a particularly important role in balance and walking
Called reticular formation. The task of the reticular formation is to filter some of the stimuli that enter the brain from the spinal cord and transmit the remaining signals to other areas of the brain. The reticular formation also plays an important role in walking, eating, sexual activity and sleep. During electrical stimulation of the animal’s reticular formation, it immediately regains full consciousness, and when the reticular formation is separated from the higher parts of the brain