Sunday, October 18, 2009

Anxiety and Our Brains- Part 4: The Limbic System

The Limbic System is all about forming emotions and memories. Various structures make up this system and they are located in the center of the brain. The names of the parts of the limbic system are:

  • Thalamus
  • Hypothalamus
  • Hippocampus
  • Amygdala

Let's take a closer look at each one.

Thalamus- The thalamus receives information outside of your body through your senses and then passes that information onto different parts of the brain, such as your cortex or your amydgala so that they can take action on it.

Hypothalamus- The hypothalamus receives information inside of your body to and from your organs. It starts your stress response by telling your adrenal glands that you are under stress so your glands can get you the energy you need. If your hypothalamus has too many neurons that respond to stress, you may be the type of person that overreacts emotionally and physically to normal, not so big stresses.

Hippocampus- The hippocampus records details, but just facts and data. No emotion is involved. It sends this data to your cortex to be processed.

Amygdala- The amygdala registers tone and intensity of emotions and notifies your brain, specifically the hypothalamus, immediately if it should prepare for problems. It registers all emotions, but prefers to notice the scary threatening ones. It's like a smoke detector for your body and brain. It doesn't respond to the yummy lasagna baking in the oven, but if the lasagna starts to burn than it will sound the alarm! You don't have to be alert to joys in order to survive, but if you are threatened, you want your amygdala working to keep you alive. Once your amygdala learns what is dangerous, it tries to protect you from whatever scared you in the future. This is how triggers are born. And anytime you avoid your fears, it lets your amygdala know that its right and that it is a dangerous thing, which makes the trigger worse. 

Interesting stuff, huh! Something I have found that is really helpful for me- I have read over the information from my book several times, but I find that it really doesn't sink in until I have to explain it in my own words when creating these posts. So, find a good friend or even a journal, and try to explain these things to them. You really have to understand it in order to repeat it.

What have you been learning about? I have LOVED the comments left on the forum for this challenge.

Parts of this post were paraphrased from The 10 Best- Ever Anxiety Management Techniques by Margaret Wehrenberg.

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