Simplified explanation of the brain’s role in Emotions:

OpenStax College - Anatomy & Physiology, Connexions Web site. , Jun 19, 2013.

OpenStax College - Anatomy & Physiology, Connexions Web site., Jun 19, 2013.


The Limbic System, often referred to as the “emotional brain”, is a group of brain structures including the amygdala, hippocampus, and hypothalamus that are involved in among other functions, such as processing and regulating emotions and memory. The limbic system is an important element of the body’s response to stress and is highly connected to the endocrine (HPA) and autonomic nervous system.

  • Amygdala is sometimes seen as the center of charged emotions which informs other structures of the brain of threat. “It runs unchecked in extreme emotional states.”

  • Hippocampus is a complex structure in the brain closely aligned to memory formation. “It is thought that under extreme emotions it loses nerve-to-nerve functions.”

  • Hypothalmus regulates a wide range of behavioral and physiological activities, often under stress. “It is overactive in extreme emotional states.”

  • Cingulate gyrus is an important part of the limbic system which helps regulate emotions and pain. The cingulate gyrus is involved in often maladaptive avoidance when anxiety is experienced.

  • Basal ganglia is a complex group of structures that regulate the initiation of certain movements. The basal ganglia is involved in linking the Thalamus with the motor cortex. The basal ganglia is also involved with cognitive and emotionally driven behaviors. It also plays a role in reward, reinforcement, and habit formation.