Our brains and bodies work in perfect unison to maintain homeostasis, or balance, while we go about our lives, take care of all the day’s obligations, and simply enjoy our existence through having fun and experiencing things that bring us pleasure. Sometimes, however, we’re met with circumstances that affect the harmonious function of our brains and bodies. The limbic system is comprised of a few different parts of the brain, and it helps regulate specific behaviors that we use daily. Impairment can occur within this system, which can result in debilitating symptoms like memory loss and chronic anxiety. We’re going to dive into what limbic system impairment is and see how the brain’s neuroplastic tendencies can aid in improving damage in this region.
The limbic system is a region of the brain that is comprised of multiple structures including the fornix, hippocampus, cingulate gyrus, amygdala, thalamus, and the hypothalamus. These parts work together to regulate the emotions and behaviors that we experience and exhibit on a daily basis. This system plays a key role with instinctual behaviors as well as autonomic bodily processes – such as our fight or flight response, digestion, reproduction, and the instinctual abilities to care for our offspring. Collectively, the limbic system works to ensure our safety and survival by looking for threats in the environment and prompting an appropriate mental, emotional, or behavioral response when needed. Once any threats are gone, a healthy limbic system should be able to regulate itself back to its equalized state. If the limbic system has become severely impaired through trauma, the threat detection and response mechanisms occasionally will not return to its baseline level, even after the threat has passed. This is what keeps us trapped in a state of fight or flight.
The limbic system is situated centrally in the brain, acting as a sort of foundational computer or processor that allows us to properly tend to ourselves and the needs that we have each day. Aside from the survival aspects that the limbic system helps us with, this system is also what makes learning and memory possible. The hippocampus is the main structure that is responsible for memory, while the amygdala leads the way when it comes to emotional responses.
When it comes to limbic system impairment, many of the bodily systems that we rely on every day can be affected and imbalanced. Homeostasis, which is the body’s natural state of balance and stability, is not attainable when the limbic system is not operating properly. This system can get stuck in what’s known as the “limbic system loop” when it’s impaired, creating a cycle of stress reactions that have a number of negative effects on the body and mind. The immune system, digestion, memory, and mood are often the primary places that we see issues when the limbic system is not functioning ideally. Physical or emotional trauma is often what creates dysfunction within the limbic system, and this makes it exponentially more difficult to handle any stress. Furthermore, stress may be triggered more easily if the limbic system has already learned to over-respond to stimuli. Once the effects of impairment within this system begin, it can become significantly more challenging to put a stop to it – but it is absolutely doable if you have the right methods.
We know that the brain’s neuroplasticity enables us to improve limbic system function, even if it is on the more severe side. Through rewiring, retraining, and strengthening the neural networks in the brain, we can lower any heightened stress responses and assist the limbic system in operating more efficiently. Brain training exercises should be regularly applied in your life if you’re struggling with limbic system impairment, such as mood elevation, slow deliberate movement or non-strenuous exercise, reading, and calming activities like knitting and painting are wonderful for calming the constant stress response your limbic system may be creating and for helping essentially reset how the system is functioning. Engaging the neurons in this way and demonstrating to your brain that it is not actually in danger is vital when it comes to repairing the limbic system. You’ll find that re-origin offers a wide variety of tools and programs that can help address limbic system impairment on a much more foundational level.
Without the limbic system, we would not have our pertinent survival instincts and it would also be impossible to adequately process our memories and express emotions. Post-traumatic stress disorder is one condition that is an unfortunately common way that we see limbic system impairment present itself. The system gets stuck in a negative feedback loop of stress that can be extremely difficult to break out of. Here at re-origin, we are working to help anyone that is affected by limbic system impairment and the additional issues that it brings forth. We have built a community centered around support and guidance as you navigate the journey of improving how you feel in your mind and body.