Limbic system

The Limbic System or Emotional Brain

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The limbic system is currently conceived as a collection of structures that form the inner border ("limbus") of the cortex.

Our sensory system allows us to know about our external world and receive information about it.

The limbic system plays an active role in learning and memory.

It determines

INPUT - what information coming to the brain will be processed

OUTPUT - how that information will be processed, and how we act in the world

It allows for learning, memory and emotion, all of which influence executive function






  • processes fear and other emotions
  • attaches emotional significance to information
  • determines which memories are stored and where they are stored in the brain


  • is involved in the formation of new memories

caudate nucleus

  • involved in feedback processing
  • allows our thoughts to transition from one to the next

cingulate gyrus

  • triggers anxiety and sends signals to the gut and heart that cause panic


  • relay station for sensory inputs as well as inputs from other parts of the brain
  • determines which of these signals to forward to the cerebral cortex


  • composed of many nuclei that regulate endocrine and visceral functions
  • controls autonomic functions such as heart rate, digestion, body temperature
  • regulates food and water intake, and the sleep-wake cycle
  • regulates fight or flight and translates extreme emotions into physical responses

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dorsolateral prefrontal cortex

  • involved in executive functions
  • helps us to prioritize behaviours and adapt to change

orbital frontal cortex

  • exercising impulse control
  • learning cultural mores
  • understanding the consequences of one's actions

nucleus accumbens

  • a group of neurons located in the forebrain
  • receives major input from the VTA (ventral tegmental area)

VTA (ventral tegmental area)

  • a small group of neurons located in the midbrain
  • uses dopamine as a neurotransmitter