Overcoming Limbic System Dysfunction Through Neuroplasticity
Are you feeling ‘tired and wired’ like you just can’t shut your mind off? Or maybe you’ve been experiencing certain symptoms like migrating pains, heightened anxiety or chronic fatigue. If so, then you’re not alone. – As many as 2.5 million Americans currently suffer from ME/CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), while countless others experience symptoms that are not easily understood by most conventional doctors.
Fortunately, in the last decade, the emergence of new research in the fields of neuroscience and mind-body medicine, are starting to shine a spotlight on the underlying mechanisms, and new brain-based treatments of self-perpetuating inflammatory conditions, also known as CIRS ,or chronic inflammatory response syndromes.
In this article, we’ll dive into the topic of limbic system dysfunction as it relates to chronic inflammatory conditions and related symptoms such as Chronic Lyme, brain fog, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), Post-Viral Fatigue and Chronic Pain Syndrome.
Limbic System Dysfunction in a nutshell
According to the limbic kindling hypothesis and research into the science of conditioning, the limbic system can sometimes become impaired by severe infection, trauma, stress, inflammation, or exposure to certain toxins or chemicals. When this happens, the limbic system can maladapt, producing an exaggerated stress response that sometimes results in inappropriate activation of immune, endocrine, and autonomic
nervous system function. There is now peer reviewed research to support that this can sometimes result in chronic conditions such as CFS, Post-Viral Fatigue, MCS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), anxiety, PTSD, and panic disorder.
The good news is that brain retraining through self-directed neuroplasticity is showing promise for many individuals for its ability to help resolve conditions ranging from chronic pain to fibromyalgia.
What is the limbic system and what does it do?
The limbic system is the brain’s “threat detection and response mechanism.” It is responsible for detecting and responding to environmental threats, whether they are physical or emotional. When the limbic system becomes impaired, it can produce an exaggerated stress response that can lead to a variety of chronic health conditions.
The fight or flight response is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived threat. The body rapidly mobilizes energy to deal with the threat, either by fighting or fleeing. This response is mediated by the sympathetic nervous system, and it involves a number of different hormones and neurotransmitters.
The fight or flight response is an important survival mechanism, but it can also become dysfunctional. When the response is activated inappropriately, it can lead to chronic health conditions such as anxiety, panic disorder, and PTSD. Brain retraining through neuroplasticity may be able to help resolve these issues.
What causes limbic system dysfunction?
There are many potential causes of limbic system dysfunction, including:
- Severe infections
- Acute or chronic stress
- Exposure to toxins or chemicals
Any single factor by itself, may not be sufficient to cause the limbic system to maladapt. But when several of them are combined with a high allostatic stress load, this can lead to a “perfect storm” scenario results in physiological and functional changes to the amygdala, hippocampus, thalamus, hypothalamus, cingulate gyrus, and the anterior cingulate cortex – the primary brain structures which comprise the limbic system.
3 Types of Limbic Dysfunction
There are three primary types of limbic system dysfunction:
1. Hypersensitivity: This is a condition in which the limbic system becomes overly sensitive to environmental stimuli. This can result in conditions such as CFS, Post-Viral Fatigue, MCS, and IBS.
2. Hyposecretion: This is a condition in which the limbic system does not produce enough of the hormones and neurotransmitters that are necessary for normal function. This usually coincides with conditions such as chronic anxiety and depression.
3. Hypersecretion: This is a condition in which the limbic system produces too much of the hormones and neurotransmitters that are necessary for normal function, often correlation with conditions such as anxiety disorders, panic disorder, and PTSD.
How can neuroplasticity help limbic system dysfunction?
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself in response to changes in environment, behavior, or thoughts. This process allows the brain to adapt and learn new information. Neuroplasticity occurs throughout life, but it is particularly important during childhood and adolescence when the brain is developing.
Brain retraining through neuroplasticity may be able to help resolve limbic system dysfunction. This type of training involves using specific exercises and techniques to teach the brain to function more effectively. The goal of brain retraining is to help the brain learn new patterns of behavior that are more adaptive and better suited to the individual’s needs and state of wellbeing.
There are a number of different approaches to brain retraining, but they all share certain common features. These approaches typically involve some combination of cognitive training, behavioral therapy, and relaxation techniques.
Cognitive training exercises are designed to improve attention, memory, and executive function. Executive function is a set of cognitive skills that helps us plan, organize, and complete tasks. Behavioral therapy is designed to help change negative thinking patterns and behaviors. Relaxation techniques are designed to help reduce stress and promote relaxation.
How can I retrain my limbic system?
The primary goals of a good limbic system retraining program should always be to:
- Calm the nervous system by resolving the underlying limbic system dysfunction
- Overwrite old maladaptive neural pathways with new beneficial neurons
- Restore healthy balance and homeostasis to the brain and body
When accomplished, this restoration of proper limbic system function may result in the following benefits:
- Increased levels of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins
- Reduced cortisol and inflammation
- Improved physical and mental health
- More time spent in the parasympathetic state
- Increased resilience to stressors
- Overall improvements in brain function, short-term and long-term memory, resting heart rate, blood pressure, ability to regulate emotional responses
Limbic System Dysfunction FAQ
What is the role of the limbic system in the body?
The limbic system is a network of structures in the brain that are involved in emotion, motivation, and memory. This system plays an important role in threat-detection and response and regulating all major bodily systems accordingly.
What causes limbic system impairment?
There are a number of different causes of limbic system impairment. Some common causes include: head injury, stroke, traumatic brain injury, severe stress or and acute infection.
Can a damaged limbic system be repaired?
The brain is always changing, and this includes the limbic system. This means that there is always potential for change and improvement. The right brain retraining exercises based on neurocognitive rehabilitation, shows great promise in their ability to restore function to the limbic system, which may result in the attenuation of any symptoms related to limbic system impairment. With patience and dedication, it is possible to overcome limbic system dysfunction and improve your quality of life.
How do I calm mHow can I improve the function of my limbic system?
There are a number of different exercises that can help to calm the limbic system. Some common exercises include: deep breathing meditation, neuroplasticity training, and relaxation techniques. These exercises can help to reduce stress and promote relaxation.
How can I improve the function of my limbic system?
There are a number of different exercises that can help to improve the function of the limbic system. These exercises can be done by anybody, and they are simple and easy to learn. They can help to reduce stress and promote relaxation, which can help to improve the function of the limbic system.
Deep breathing or meditation
What are some common symptoms of limbic system dysfunction?
Common symptoms of limbic system dysfunction include:
Feeling “tired and wired”
Aches and pains
Digestive issues or IBS
Can you recover from limbic system impairment?
The human brain has an incredible ability to change and adapt. This includes the ability to repair damage to the limbic system and restore its function. With patience and dedication, we believe it is possible to overcome limbic system dysfunction and improve your quality of life.
If you are suffering from limbic system impairment or dysfunction, know that there is hope. re-origin offers a science-based neuroplasticity training program and community with small group coaching and dedicated support. From the moment you join re-origin you will be surrounded by a group of super-powered self-healers who’ve been through what you may be experiencing, and will help and uplift you to come out the otherside as a stronger, healthier, and happier you.
- Ashy, M., Yu, B., Gutowski, E., Samkavitz, A., & Malley-Morrison, K. (2020). Childhood Maltreatment, Limbic Dysfunction, Resilience, and Psychiatric Symptoms. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 35(1–2), 426–452. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260516683174. Accessible From: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0886260516683174
Ben Ahrens, Co-founder & CEO of re-origin®