An Overview of Limbic System Disorders

An Overview of Limbic System Disorders

The limbic system is a critical region within the brain that is responsible for a wide array of different processes, primarily ones that deal with various survival instincts and the management of learning and memory. Like any part of the body, the limbic system can become impaired, which can lead to a host of problems that can negatively impact one’s everyday life. In this article, we will discuss the various functions with which the limbic system is involved, what it means to have a limbic system impairment, and various ways one can calm and heal the limbic system and restore homeostasis using neuroplasticity training. 

What are the Major Functions of the Limbic System?

What are the Major Functions of the Limbic System?

The limbic system is responsible for a number of functions that we use multiple times every single day. From helping us retain information, form memories, and process emotions, to triggering our survival instincts such as the fight or flight response, we rely on the limbic system to coordinate and communicate our body’s vital messages. 

The three main structures of the limbic system are the amygdala, the hypothalamus, and the hippocampus. The amygdala is the region that initiates the fight or flight response, while the hypothalamus helps regulate and maintain homeostasis within the body. The hippocampus processes long-term memories and spatial awareness. Without the limbic system, activities such as unconscious breathing, heart rate, body temperature regulation, and information retention would not be possible[1].

What Happens When the Limbic System Malfunctions?

What Happens When the Limbic System Malfunctions?

In some cases, the limbic system can become overworked and stuck in a negative feedback loop, which can cause a variety of different health concerns. This can happen when the limbic system is appropriately triggered due to a threat or stressful circumstance, but then fails to leave this state once the stimuli that activated it is gone. This negative feedback loop is recognized as the “limbic loop”. When the limbic system is malfunctioning, symptoms such as anxiety, depression, chronic stress, brain fog, fatigue, cognitive impairments, and addiction can all manifest. The important thing to understand, however, is that we can work with our neuroplastic abilities, or the ability to form and reorganize brand new neural connections, to retrain the brain and end the cycle that is causing undue stress and gain back the baseline level of inherent relaxation.

Common Disorders Resulting from Limbic System Impairment

Several of the most common health conditions that people experience can be tied back to an overworked limbic system. When it isn’t operating how it’s meant to, it can create a domino effect throughout the body, affecting entire bodily systems such as the immune and digestive systems.

Anxiety and Depression

With an estimated 18% of the American population suffering from anxiety and another 9.5% that experience depression, anxiety and depression are two of the most predominant mental health disorders in the world[2]. These mental illnesses do not only affect the mind, as most people that live with them experience physical symptoms as well such as appetite issues, insomnia, headaches, and fatigue. When the limbic system is overactivated and trapped in a consistent stress response cycle, the result is often anxiety and depression. Studies suggest that the heightened levels of cortisol in the body from the malfunctioning limbic system play a large role in cases of anxiety and depression[3].

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome 

When the nervous system becomes conditioned to overactive the sympathetic branch, the body’s resources may be allocated away from long term functions such as detoxification, tissue repair, digestion, and immune and endocrine system functions – in favor of should term inflammatory activity. Over time, this can place excess stress on the body, leaving the person feeling drained of energy. Furthermore, the part of the brain that regulates emotions can become depleted of natural “feel-good” chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins, leading the person to feel flat or depressed. Fortunately, their is neuroscience data and tons of anecdotal evidence to suggest that the dysfunction can be reversed, and those suffering from CFS and anxiety disorders can recover the function of the autonomic nervous system which results in homeostasis. 

Addiction 

In many cases, addiction can be tied back to a malfunctioning limbic system. The feelings of motivation, pleasure, and reward are connected to the limbic system, which is why addiction can be related to an impairment here[6]. When certain drugs are regularly used, there is a rush of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which provides us with the sensation of reward. The brain becomes dependent on addictive substances and starts associating them with survival, however there is a solution to this negative relationship with addictive substances, brain rewiring. It’s suggested that through introducing cognitive modifications, it’s possible to overcome addiction. The neurons in the brain can be restructured to stop depending on addictive substances when the appropriate training methods are applied, putting an end to the destructive limbic loop.

Dementia 

Dementia is a condition that is characterized by memory loss, confusion, disorientation, and mood swings. Neural connections within the brain, namely the limbic system, can begin to deteriorate as a result of trauma, depression, and genetic predispositions[4]. It’s understood that there are no known cures for dementia and that essential neurotransmitters that play a major role in memory retention (i.e., acetylcholine) are diminished in those that are suffering from this degenerative illness. While this may be the case, scientific evidence does suggest that early intervention and the application of neuroplasticity training can help delay the progression of cognitive decline[2].

How to Calm & Rewire The Limbic System

The above-mentioned disorders can be incredibly devastating to live with, and it can be just as difficult to witness someone you deeply care about go through them, too. The good news is that an overactive limbic system can be calmed through neuroplasticity training, where the old and harmful neural connections can be pruned (eliminated), and new beneficial connections are formed. Evidence does suggest that implementing brain training exercises to rewire and reorganize the synapses has great potential in aiding the treatment of limbic related health conditions. Regular application of these exercises can retrain the brain to realize that it is no longer in any danger and that it no longer needs to release the stress responses. When this happens, the body is brought back to its natural state of homeostasis and a sense of physical and mental calm can finally manifest.

Disorders that stem from an impaired limbic system can feel like a major setback, but we’re here to assure you that this is not the case at all. Neuroplasticity training programs like the one we provide at re-origin, can help you pinpoint your specific issue and set you on a course of action to help calm the limbic system, putting an end to the negative loops that excess stress set in motion. 

re-origin is a community that is dedicated to helping anyone that struggles with a wide range of chronic health issues through science-backed neuroplasticity training. We’re here to offer support, guidance, and answers that you have likely not found anywhere else. It’s completely possible to rewire the brain from making you feel constantly stressed, worried, and overall unwell to balanced, healthy, and in control again. You’re capable of so much more than you may realize, and we’re here to assist you with harnessing these capabilities each and every step of the way.

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References

  1. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/mental-health-disorder-statistics
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2917081/
  3. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/what-causes-depression
  4. https://www.lecturio.com/magazine/limbic-system-disorders/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3622463/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9783839/
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