The limbic lobe is not standalone but is instead an interacting bundle of brain structures that stem from each of the four brain lobes: parietal, frontal, temporal, and occipital. This region of the brain is C-shaped and has very important functions such as memorization, learning, motivation, and emotion along with other functions.
Although the limbic lobe and limbic system overall are often referred to as the region that controls not only emotions but also social skills, it is still considered to be a primitive part of our brains. Most of the functions that happen within the limbic system are unconscious functions. Because not much is known about the limbic lobe in general, it is not known whether or not it is primarily responsible for involuntary reactions and behaviors (mental illness, addiction, etc.).
Where can you Find the Limbic Lobe?
While the limbic system was thought of as a set of brain structures that remain discrete at one point in time, it is now recognized that the limbic system involves a wide array of brain structures. It is also highly impacted by hormones, so the hormones mixed with interactions link the limbic system to the whole body because both are greatly affected by the environment and experiences. For example, pricking your finger can cause a reaction in the limbic system just as smelling a fresh pie could.
On the contrary, the limbic lobe is a set of discrete brain structures. These are the same structures that were once believed to be within the entire limbic system. Because of this confusion, the structures are often referenced to both the limbic system and limbic lobe.
The limbic lobe is C-shaped and is located across both hemispheres of the brain. It can be found within various lobes such as the temporal, frontal, and parietal. All living mammals have a limbic lobe though it is not certain which parts of the brain constitute the limbic lobe. Some crucial components that are known of the limbic lobe include the amygdala, mamillary body, cingulate gyrus, and hippocampus.
Other structures that can be found within the limbic lobe or in coordination with the limbic lobe include:
- Collateral Sulcus
- Rhinal Sulcus
- Hippocampus Fimbria
- Fimbrodentate Sulcus
- Fasciola Gyrus
- Cingulate Sulcus
- Paraterminal Gyrus
- Subcallosal Area
- Dentate Gyrus
What is the Function of the Limbic Lobe?
The limbic lobe is known for its impact on emotional reactions. While emotions are most often thought of like anger and happiness, they are much more complex than that. It is with these complex emotions that the limbic lobe is in charge of.
One of the most significant roles of the limbic lobe is regulating the endocrine system’s responses to various emotions. This can include the fight-or-flight reaction or triggers to what is perceived as danger. It is also responsible for conscious and unconscious roles such as sexual desire, appetite, and more.
Other primary functions of the limbic lobe include:
- Assigning Significance to Emotion and Experiences- for example, when a smell triggers a memory
- Memorization and Learning- hippocampus plays a large role in both learning and memorizing; this is not fully known yet, but research shows that damage to the limbic lobe results in damage to memory and learning abilities
- Social Skills- empathy, processing, social cues; damage to the amygdala, in particular, can cause problems with social skills
How Does the Brain Work with the Body?
Without input from other brain organs and regions, the limbic lobe would not be able to do much. It relies heavily upon input from other regions of the brain and body.
Some ways in which the limbic lobe works with the brain regions and the body include:
- Receiving input from your eyes, ears, mouth, or skin- Through this, the limbic lobe will assign meaning to that input. It can also allow you to recognize connections between sensory inputs and emotions such as danger or nostalgia.
- Making decisions based on your environment- Experiences, particularly those in early life, alter the functionality of the limbic lobe. Because of this, the environment and experiences have a large effect on the limbic lobe’s ability to make decisions.
- Secreting hormones in specific scenarios- This is especially true in very emotional scenarios.
- Affecting your bodily structures- Stress can result in your body receiving more adrenaline or other hormones of the sort.
- Relating your attention- The limbic lobe decides what is worth paying attention to and what isn’t. This can result in either being focused or being distracted.
How can Damage to the Limbic Lobe Affect You?
Since the limbic lobe is in charge of such a variety of functions, any damage to the limbic lobe can result in a variety of symptoms. Damage to the limbic lobe not only occurs in physical manners but can also occur due to chronic stress or damage mental damage during the developmental stages.
While the damage can sometimes be irreversible, it can sometimes be fixed. This all depends on the extent of the damage and how long it has been around. It is also highly dependent on what steps have been taken to heal or reverse the damage as well as the overall health of the person affected. Because this area of the brain is not fully understood, sometimes medical treatment is unable to help.
Some repercussions of damage to the limbic lobe include:
- Epilepsy- the most common form is temporal lobe epilepsy
- Hippocampal Sclerosis- often attributed to temporal lobe epilepsy; causes damage to neurons and glial cells
- Dementia- can cause dementia or Alzheimer’s
- Problems Communicating- aphasia or the inability to speak and/or understand what is being said
- Mood Changes
- Personality Changes
- Memory Loss
- Psychiatric Disorders- most commonly bipolar, PTSD, and anxiety; problem in the feedback loop of the limbic lobe
- Body Disorders- most common art in the endocrine system which can influence mood, health, fertility, and more