Depression Chapter 6

Emotions and Your Brain


The Seat of Emotions

Why do we have emotions? Why do we feel happy or sad? How are we able to empathize with the feelings of others? Emotions are more than social constructs. They reflect intrinsic states of functioning in your brain and are ultimately related to chemical messengers and electrical impulses in the brain and in the body. READ MORE

The limbic system is thought to be the seat of emotions in the brain, and researchers have found associations between depression and overactivity of the deep limbic system. Now, using ever-more-sophisticated imaging technology, scientists can view the living brain in action. Understanding the workings of the brain is vital to understanding depression, its causes, its effects, and most important, what we can do about it. LESS


History Moment

The brain’s limbic system is thought to regulate the emotions, as well as physical and sexual drives, memory, the experience of pleasure and pain, the sense of smell, and the stress response. READ MORE

The limbic system includes a number of structures:

  • The amygdala is considered to be central to the functioning of the limbic system and performs a primary role in the processing and memory of emotional reactions, particularly fear conditioning.

  • The hypothalamus is also of particular importance and is responsible for many basic functions like sleep, appetite, sexual drive, stress reaction, and other activities. The hypothalamus controls the functioning of the pituitary gland.

  • The pituitary controls key hormones that regulate many of the body’s major functions.

  • The hippocampus is associated with emotional reactions and is necessary for the formation of long-term memories.

  • The cingulate gyrus is concerned with autonomic functions and cognitive and attentional processing

Because the limbic system contains many different components and normally functions in a complex equilibrium, disturbances in any part of it can affect your mood and behavior, possibly even leading to depression. LESS

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