What Part Of Brain Controls Emotions


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Where Do Emotions Come From

What Part of the Brain Controls Emotions? Medical Animation #brain #love

The limbic system is a group of interconnected structures located deep within the brain. Its the part of the brain thats responsible for behavioral and emotional responses.

Scientists havent reached an agreement about the full list of structures that make up the limbic system, but the following structures are generally accepted as part of the group:

  • Hypothalamus. In addition to controlling emotional responses, the hypothalamus is also involved in sexual responses, hormone release, and regulating body temperature.
  • Hippocampus. The hippocampus helps preserve and retrieve memories. It also plays a role in how you understand the spatial dimensions of your environment.
  • Amygdala. The amygdala helps coordinate responses to things in your environment, especially those that trigger an emotional response. This structure plays an important role in fear and anger.
  • Limbic cortex. This part contains two structures, the cingulate gyrus and the parahippocampal gyrus. Together, they impact mood, motivation, and judgement.

What Is The Gray Matter And White Matter

Gray and white matter are two different regions of the central nervous system. In the brain, gray matter refers to the darker, outer portion, while white matter describes the lighter, inner section underneath. In the spinal cord, this order is reversed: The white matter is on the outside, and the gray matter sits within.

Gray matter is primarily composed of neuron somas , and white matter is mostly made of axons wrapped in myelin . The different composition of neuron parts is why the two appear as separate shades on certain scans.

Each region serves a different role. Gray matter is primarily responsible for processing and interpreting information, while white matter transmits that information to other parts of the nervous system.

What Part Of The Brain Controls Mood And Emotional Behavior

Your emotional response and the general mood are generated in the amygdala. But its the prefrontal cortex thats responsible for planning future action, aka, the way you behave based on those emotions.

So if you thought about robbing a bank, your prefrontal cortex would help you process the idea and connect it to an appropriate emotional response.

If the amygdala is damaged, you lose control of base impulses. In fact, you may even begin to act in an inappropriate way. Disinhibited behavior, hypersexuality, and risk-taking are behavioral consequences of a damaged amygdala.

The left hemisphere of the brain processes while the right hemisphere identifies. For example, if you felt as if you were falling in love, your right hemisphere would identify the feeling, but your left hemisphere would help you decide on how to act.

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Can Frontal Lobe Damage Repair Itself

It’s possible for the brain to rewire itself to compensate for an injury to the frontal lobe and allow undamaged areas to take over a function! Therefore, even if you’ve suffered damage to the frontal lobe, this doesn’t automatically mean you have permanently lost an ability controlled by that area.

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New book explores brain power and human emotion

We have seen that the left hemisphere of the brain primarily senses and controls the motor movements on the right side of the body, and vice versa. This fact provides an interesting way to study brain lateralization the idea that the left and the right hemispheres of the brain are specialized to perform different functions. Gazzaniga, Bogen, and Sperry studied a patient, known as W. J., who had undergone an operation to relieve severe seizures. In this surgery, the region that normally connects the two halves of the brain and supports communication between the hemispheres, known as the corpus callosum, is severed. As a result, the patient essentially becomes a person with two separate brains. Because the left and right hemispheres are separated, each hemisphere develops a mind of its own, with its own sensations, concepts, and motivations .

Although Gazzanigas research demonstrated that the brain is in fact lateralized, such that the two hemispheres specialize in different activities, this does not mean that when people behave in a certain way or perform a certain activity they are only using one hemisphere of their brains at a time. That would be drastically oversimplifying the concept of brain differences. We normally use both hemispheres at the same time, and the difference between the abilities of the two hemispheres is not absolute .

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The Effects Of Stress On The Brain:

Stressful events are a non-negotiable part of life.

In fact, the body is wired to withstand and even thrive in the midst of short-term stress.

Unfortunately though, in todays fast-paced world and daily life, most of us are experiencing ever-increasing stress levels and ever-rising cortisol levels.

The negative effects of chronic stress have been well documented.

Its becoming widely accepted now that stress causes health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and even immune system dysfunction.

Stress affects mental health too.

Without proper stress management, it can turn into anxiety, panic disorder, or even post-traumatic stress disorder .

This is because over time stress changes brain function.

Chronic stress really wreaks havoc on our minds.

Stress can literally kill brain cells.

A single stressful situation has the power to kill neurons in the brains hippocampus region , as one animal study showed.

Chronic stress shrinks the brain, which leads to emotional and mental impairment.

Specifically, stress shrinks the prefrontal cortex, which is associated with decision making, complex thinking, working memory, moderating social behavior, and attention control.

Whats worse, a chronically stressed-out brain becomes wired and predisposed to being in constant stress mode, thus creating a vicious cycle.

Chronic stress not only shrinks the part of our brain associated with higher thinking, but it has also been shown to increase the size of the amygdala.

The Role Of The Orbitofrontal Cortex

Earlier, I alluded to the importance of the orbitofrontal cortex working closely with the amygdala to interpret positive and negative emotional states, and that both brain structures preferentially code for positive or negative emotions. We will now take a closer look at the role of the orbitofrontal cortex in emotion in general.

As early as the 16th century, a link was noticed between physical trauma and psychological changes impacting behaviour. A decent, socially well-adjusted butcher living in the English midlands received a battle wound. His subsequent anti-social behaviour eventually resulted in murder. However, his contemporaries seemed to realise that his radically-changed mental state was somehow related to his wound. They signed a petition and cited his wound as a mitigating factor to explain his various offences. In view of modern findings and despite not having the details of the actual wound, it is likely that the butchers criminal conduct may have been due to damage to his orbitofrontal cortex.

Here begins a fascinating and not uncommon story about the progress of scientific knowledge. As we shall see, science often takes a meandering and often uneven course towards truth, which is well-exemplified by the pathway to our modern understanding of the role of the orbitofrontal cortex in emotion. A pathway often influenced for better or worse by charismatic figures that crop up along the way.

Wisdom that lasted for well over a century

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What Part Of The Brain Controls Emotions

We experience many emotions on daily basis, but which part of the brain controls emotions? Discover the part thats responsible for all that we feel.

We are emotional beings. From happiness to sadness, fear, anger, love, and everything in between.

These feelings seem to happen automatically and sometimes feel outside the realm of our control. But emotions are very much a mental process.

Have you ever thought about what part of the brain controls emotions?

We know all about the brain centers that control breathing, balance, and speech.

But what are the less tangible aspects of our behavior? What about our emotions?

Heres all you need to know about what part of the brain controls emotions.

How The Brain Processes Emotions

Emotions and the Brain: What is the limbic system?

When it comes to emotions, it turns out that there are regions in the brain, specifically in the limbic system, that are associated with each of the 6 main emotions.

As we all know, emotions are complex. Psychologists say that we have only 6 basic emotions, which are happiness, anger, sadness, fear, surprise, and disgust. All of our other emotions are built from the 6 basic emotions. For example, jealousy stems from a combined feeling of anger or sadness, while satisfaction can be a type of happiness.

When it comes to emotions, it turns out that there are regions in the brain, specifically in the limbic system, that are associated with each of the 6 main emotions. Emotions are actually experiences that are associated with activation of certain regions in the brain.

Emotion structures in brain

Positron Emission Tomography scanning and functional MRI studies have shown that some emotions are more likely to be associated with different regions of limbic system activity than other emotions.

1. Happiness activates several areas of the brain, including the right frontal cortex, the precuneus, the left amygdala, and the left insula. This activity involves connections between awareness and the feeling center of the brain.

2. Fear activates the bilateral amygdala, the hypothalamus and areas of the left frontal cortex. This involves some thinking , a gut feeling , and a sense of urgency typically associated with survival

Additional reading

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Functions Of The Cortex

When the German physicists Gustav Fritsch and Eduard Hitzig applied mild electric stimulation to different parts of a dogs cortex, they discovered that they could make different parts of the dogs body move. Furthermore, they discovered an important and unexpected principle of brain activity. They found that stimulating the right side of the brain produced movement in the left side of the dogs body, and vice versa. This finding follows from a general principle about how the brain is structured, called contralateral control, meaning the brain is wired such that in most cases the left hemisphere receives sensations from and controls the right side of the body, and vice versa.

Just as the motor cortex sends out messages to the specific parts of the body, the somatosensory cortex, an area just behind and parallel to the motor cortex at the back of the frontal lobe, receives information from the skins sensory receptors and the movements of different body parts. Again, the more sensitive the body region, the more area is dedicated to it in the sensory cortex. Our sensitive lips, for example, occupy a large area in the sensory cortex, as do our fingers and genitals.

Exercises And Critical Thinking

  • Do you think that animals experience emotion? What aspects of brain structure might lead you to believe that they do or do not?
  • Consider your own experiences and speculate on which parts of your brain might be particularly well developed as a result of these experiences.
  • Which brain hemisphere are you likely to be using when you search for a fork in the silverware drawer? Which brain hemisphere are you most likely to be using when you struggle to remember the name of an old friend?
  • Do you think that encouraging left-handed children to use their right hands is a good idea? Why or why not?
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    What Part Of The Brain Controls Anger

    Much like fear, anger is a response to threats or stressors in your environment. When youre in a situation that seems dangerous and you cant escape, youll likely respond with anger or aggression. You can think of the anger response and the fight as part of the fight-or-flight response.

    Frustration, such as facing roadblocks while trying to achieve a goal, can also trigger the anger response.

    Anger starts with the amygdala stimulating the hypothalamus, much like in the fear response. In addition, parts of the prefrontal cortex may also play a role in anger. People with damage to this area often have trouble controlling their emotions, especially anger and aggression.

    Parts of the prefrontal cortex of the brain may also contribute to the regulation of an anger response. People with damage to this area of the brain sometimes

    The Anterior Cingulate Gyrus

    Nootropics for Anger

    The anterior cingulate gyrus is in the medial area of the brain and runs longitudinally through the frontal lobes. It is the part of the brain that makes humans flexible and capable of perceiving choices in life.

    That is why it is sometimes called the brain gearshift. People with healthy activity in the anterior cingulate gyrus are generally cooperative and more adaptable to change.

    People with anterior cingulate gyrus imbalance, on the other hand, generally worry too much about the future, hold a grudge about things in the past, and feel insecure in the world. Some serious psychiatric disorders associated with abnormal anterior cingulate gyrus activity include obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders, and addictive disorders.

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    How Does Frontal Lobe Damage Affect Personality

    As a whole, the frontal lobe is responsible for higher cognitive functions such as memory, emotions, impulse control, problem solving, social interaction, and motor function. Damage to the neurons or tissue of the frontal lobe can lead to personality changes, difficulty concentrating or planning, and impulsivity.

    Brain Anatomy And Limbic System

    The image on the left is a side view of the outside of the brain, showing the major lobes and the brain stem structures .

    The image on the right is a side view showing the location of the limbic system inside the brain. The limbic system consists of a number of structures, including the fornix, hippocampus, cingulate gyrus, amygdala, the parahippocampal gyrus, and parts of the thalamus. The hippocampus is one of the first areas affected by Alzheimer’s disease. As the disease progresses, damage extends throughout the lobes.

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    Hormones That Responsible For Your Emotions

    Emotions are also influenced by hormones. These chemical messengers are produced by the endocrine system and affect everything from mood to metabolism. Some of the hormones that play a role in emotions include:

    • Serotonin: Often referred to as the happy hormone, serotonin helps regulate mood, appetite, and sleep.
    • Dopamine: Sometimes called the reward hormone, dopamine is associated with pleasure and motivation.
    • Cortisol: Often called the stress hormone, cortisol is released in response to stress and helps regulate energy levels, immunity, and blood pressure.

    While hormones dont directly cause emotions, they can influence how you feel.

    For example, a drop in serotonin levels has been linked to depression, while high levels of dopamine have been associated with feelings of happiness and euphoria.

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    Lobes Of The Brain And What They Control

    Emotions and the Brain

    Each brain hemisphere has four sections, called lobes: frontal, parietal, temporal and occipital. Each lobe controls specific functions.

    • Frontal lobe. The largest lobe of the brain, located in the front of the head, the frontal lobe is involved in personality characteristics, decision-making and movement. Recognition of smell usually involves parts of the frontal lobe. The frontal lobe contains Brocas area, which is associated with speech ability.
    • Parietal lobe. The middle part of the brain, the parietal lobe helps a person identify objects and understand spatial relationships . The parietal lobe is also involved in interpreting pain and touch in the body. The parietal lobe houses Wernickes area, which helps the brain understand spoken language.
    • Occipital lobe. The occipital lobe is the back part of the brain that is involved with vision.
    • Temporal lobe. The sides of the brain, temporal lobes are involved in short-term memory, speech, musical rhythm and some degree of smell recognition.

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    How Does The Brain Work

    The brain sends and receives chemical and electrical signals throughout the body. Different signals control different processes, and your brain interprets each. Some make you feel tired, for example, while others make you feel pain.

    Some messages are kept within the brain, while others are relayed through the spine and across the bodys vast network of nerves to distant extremities. To do this, the central nervous system relies on billions of neurons .

    Disorders Involving The Amygdala

    There are several neurological disorders associated with damage to the amygdala. One, as discussed above, is Kluver-Bucy syndrome. Kluver-Bucy syndrome is rare in humans, but can occur after brain trauma, neurodegenerative disease, or an infection that reaches the brain. The symptoms vary from case to case, but might include placidity, an irresistible urge to put various objects in the mouth , and an uncontrollable appetite.

    Urbach-Wiethe disease is a rare genetic disorder that can cause calcification of brain tissue in the temporal lobes this calcification can cause damage to the amygdalae. While Urbach-Wiethe disease is an exceedingly rare condition, it is thought to be the cause of amygdala damage in one of the best-known medical cases alive today: SM. SM, who is only known by her initials to protect her anonymity, has a well-documented inability to experience fear. Over the past several decades, researchers have put SM into a variety of experimental conditions designed to elicit fear. Only oneforcing her to breathe air that was about 35% carbon dioxide led to a fearful reaction from SM. SM has Urbach-Wiethe disease, and it has caused severe damage to her amygdalae. Because of her inability to experience most types of fear coupled with her amygdala damage, SM is commonly used as an demonstration of the important role the amygdala plays in fear.

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    Conflict Of Interest Statement

    The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.


    Gross, J. J., and Barrett, L. F. 2011. Emotion generation and emotion regulation: one or two depends on your point of view. Emot. Rev. 3:816. doi:10.1177/1754073910380974

    Raschle, N. M., Lee, M., Buechler, R., Christodoulou, J. A., Chang, M., Vakil, M., et al. 2009. Making MR imaging childs play pediatric neuroimaging protocol, guidelines and procedure. J. Vis. Exp. doi:10.3791/1309

    Phan, K. L., Wager, T., Taylor, S. F., and Liberzon, I. 2002. Functional neuroanatomy of emotion: a meta-analysis of emotion activation studies in PET and fMRI. Neuroimage 16:33148. doi:10.1006/nimg.2002.1087

    Sterzer, P., Stadler, C., Poustka, F., and Kleinschmidt, A. 2007. A structural neural deficit in adolescents with conduct disorder and its association with lack of empathy. Neuroimage 37:33542. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2007.04.043

    Raschle, N. M., Menks, W. M., Fehlbaum, L. V., Tshomba, E., and Stadler, C. 2015. Structural and functional alterations in right dorsomedial prefrontal and left insular cortex co-localize in adolescents with aggressive behaviour: an ALE meta-analysis. PLoS ONE 10:e0136553. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0136553

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