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The Vital Importance Of Mother-Baby Attunement (Limbic Resonance) In Early Life


One way of describing the brain is to represent it as comprising three parts that developed at different times during our evolutionary history :

  • The reptilian brain (this is the most primitive part of the brain): this part of the brain is involved in basic functions such as breathing and heart rate.
  • The limbic system (sometimes referred to as the mammalian brain): this part of the brain is involved with emotions.
  • The neocortex (this is the most recently evolved part of our brains): this part of the brain is involved in higher-level mental processing.

This three-part model of the brain is often referred to as the triune brain and is depicted in the image below.


The concept of limbic resonance relates to, as the term suggests, the brain’s limbic system (sometimes referred to as the brain’s emotional centre).

What Is Limbic Resonance?

The concept of limbic resonance was first introduced in the book entitled  A General Theory Of Love and, in simple terms, refers to the idea that emotions are contagious and that, therefore, the emotions of others have a powerful effect on our own inner state.

Due to our capacity for emotional resonance, our own internal, emotional state does not exist as an independent entity, but, instead, is dependent upon the emotional states of others, particularly those to whom we are very close. For example, if someone around us is anxious and fearful, we sense this and it may have an adverse effect on our own inner state; in other words, the negative emotions of others can ‘infect’ us (and, likewise, the positive emotions of those around us (such as warmth, compassion, and love) can ‘nourish’ us.

Limbic Resonance And Babyhood :

Limbic resonance is of crucial importance in relation to how we relate to our primary carer (usually the mother) when we are babies/infants.

Limbic resonance is normally achieved between baby and mother via deep eye contact; however, if the process goes wrong and our mother is consistently,  poorly attuned to us at this early stage of our lives, failing to attend to our basic needs, our brain’s chemical composition and its limbic system’s ability to interact with the reptilian brain and neocortex (see above) in a manner conducive to emotional health and well-being (referred to as ‘limbic regulation’) may be seriously disrupted leading to impaired development of the personality as well as emotional difficulties in later life.


If, when we were very young, the poor quality of our relationship with our mother meant that she was unable to satisfactorily attune to us and provide consistent, attentive, warm, loving care, the authors of A General Theory Of Love, (Lewis, Amini, and Lannon) suggest that the resultant psychological problems we are at risk of developing may be effectively treated with the use of a therapy known as LIMBIC REVISION.

Limbic revision refers to the therapeutic process whereby the brain is rewired and the limbic system is repaired. This is best achieved through finding a relationship with another in which we receive dependable, consistent warmth and care, providing us with a source of attunement that we failed to receive during our crucial, developmental years. We may find such a relationship with a therapist or within our personal lives. Unfortunately, finding such a relationship can be very difficult because, without effective therapy, our childhood mistreatment can ruin our adult relationships, making it very hard to find the right person to sustain a mutually warm and caring relationship with. For example, due to the psychological damage that we have sustained as children, we may find we are persistently, unconsciously drawn to those who won’t reciprocate our feelings.

A further requirement to allow effective limbic revision to take place in an environment that is as free from stress as possible and in which one feels safe and secure

In relation to this, you may wish to read my previously published article :

The book referred to in the above article, A GENERAL THEORY OF LOVE,‘ can be purchased from Amazon (see below):

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