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Tag Archives: Limbic System

The Importance Of Limbic Resonance In Early Life

One way of describing the brain is to represent it as comprising three parts which 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 upon 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 upon 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.

LIMBIC REVISION

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 to 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.

 

RESEARCH THAT HELPS US TO UNDERSTAND THE VITAL IMPORTANCE OF LIMBIC RESONANCE IN EARLY LIFE :

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):


David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Effect Of Childhood Trauma On The Limbic System

Limbic system

If we have suffered severe and chronic childhood trauma, there is a risk that an area of our brain called the limbic system may have incurred developmental damage which severely affects how we feel and behave as adults.

What Is The Limbic System’s Normal Function?

The limbic system is a region of our brain that experiences emotional reactions to information relayed by our five senses : taste, touch, vision, smell and hearing. These emotional reactions are strongly shaped by the memories stored in the limbic system connected to past experiences associated with these senses.

To provide a simple example : if our ancestors heard the roar of a lion behind them, because this sound is associated (from past experience) in the limbic system with danger, they would react with fear and run away. This function of the limbic system clearly has survival value, which is why modern day humans have inherited it.

Components Of The Limbic System:

The limbic system comprises :

– the amygdala

– the hippocampus

– mammillary body

– hypothalamus

– olfactory cortex

– thalamus

– cingulate gyrus

– fornix

The positioning in the brain of the above regions is shown in the diagram below:

 

How Can The Experience Of Childhood Trauma Cause The Limbic System To Become Dysfunctional?

If as children, our limbic system was repeatedly activated by threatening and frightening experiences then its development may have been disrupted. This may mean that it becomes HYPERSENSITIVE to perceived threat AND OVER- REACTIVE to perceived threat.

Importantly, the limbic system may cause us to OVER-REACT TO PERCEIVED THREATS THAT WE ONLY PERCEIVE ON AN UNCONSCIOUS LEVEL. For example, if someone in authority speaks to us in a manner that, on an unconscious level, reminds us of how an abusive parent used to speak to us, we might become extremely anxious, frightened or aggressive (aggression here would represent an unconscious drive to defend ourselves).

Theoretical Reversibility:

However, because of a quality of the brain known as neuroplasticity, this disrupted part of the brain can begin to heal itself through factors including the

 

eBook :

childhood_trauma

 

Above eBook now available on Amazon for immediate download. Click here for further details.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

More on How Trauma and Stress can Affect the Child’s Developing Brain.

Our brains developed over millions of years of evolution. Different parts of the modern human brain evolved at different periods of this enormous time span.

The most primitive part of the modern brain, which evolved first, is known, rather unflatteringly, as the REPTILIAN brain. This part of our brain is ‘in charge’ of BASIC SURVIVAL PROCESSES such as the physiological aspects of the well-known FIGHT/FLIGHT RESPONSE such as heart rate.

In contrast, the part of our brain which developed most recently (the NEOCORTEX) is involved with HIGHER LEVEL PROCESSING such as complex learning, talking and forming relationships with others.

Children who experience CHRONIC and SEVERE TRAUMA as they are growing up automatically UTILIZE THE MORE PRIMITIVE PART OF THE BRAIN FAR MORE THAN NORMAL as they are driven by the adverse environment that they inhabit to FOCUS ON SURVIVAL

This comes at the expense of the development of the regions of the brain concerned with higher level mental functioning – indeed, this part of the brain can become SIGNIFICANTLY UNDER-UTILIZED, thus IMPAIRING ITS DEVELOPMENT. This can lead to the child:

– developing a brain which is smaller than normal

– developing less neural connection in the parts of the brain involved with higher level mental processing.

In short, then, the primitive part of the brain becomes OVER-EXERCISED, whilst the part of the brain which has most recently evolved becomes UNDER-EXERCISED.

impaired-brain-development-in-children

The three regions of the brain shown above evolved at different times in our evolutionary history – the most primitive part is called the REPTILIAN BRAIN and controls our basic survival mechanisms. The most recently evolved part is the NEOCORTEX which is involved in higher level mental processes such as abstract thought.

 

EFFECTS OF PRIMITIVE PART BRAIN BEING ‘OVER-EXERCISED’.

 

This results in the child becoming HYPER-SENSITIVE to the ADVERSE EFFECTS OF STRESS.

Because of this, such a child is far less able to deal with stress (i.e. s/he has a far lower stress- tolerance threshold) than children who have been fortunate enough to grow up in a more benign environment (all else being equal).

In other words, children who have grown up in traumatic environments MAY EXPERIENCE SEVERE PHYSIOLOGICAL STRESS RESPONSES TO RELATIVELY MINOR TRIGGERS/PROVOCATIONS.

Such dramatic responses are especially likely if the triggering event reminds the child, however indirectly, of the original experience of trauma.

Children suffering from such a condition may:

– have great difficulty concentrating/focussing their attention

– experience high levels of restlessness and agitation

– have high levels of anxiety

– behave aggressively/violently when under stress

– bully others (often, subconsciously, to gain a sense of control in a world in which they feel essentially powerless).

 

POST TRAUMATIC STRESS (PTSD) IN CHILDREN:

If the child develops PTSD as a result of his/her traumatic experiences his/her body will develop a chronic tendency to OVER-PRODUCE STRESS HORMONES (e.g. cortisol) on a day-to-day basis which may INTERFERE WITH HIS/HER ABILITY TO LEARN.

 

OTHER SYMPTOMS OF PTSD IN CHILDHOOD:

dissociation (‘zoning out’)

arrested development (e.g. suddenly stops talking)

nightmares/night terrors

– frequent waking during the night

– violent play (e.g. acting out violent scenarios with toys)

– frequent drawing/painting of extremely violent scenes

bed wetting

– somatic complaints (e.g. stomach aches, headaches etc)

– anxiety/depression

– general behavioural problems / acting out

– problem drinking/drug use

 

THE GOOD NEWS:

However, the positive news is that, because of an innate quality of the brain called NEUROPLASTICITY, it is able to repair and ‘rewire’ itself, thus reversing the damage done in childhood. The following experiences may help this to happen:

– physical activity

– the development of new skills

– relaxation and avoidance of stress

– healthy, pleasurable experiences

– the development of warm, emotionally fulfilling relationships

– enjoyable social activity

On the other hand, the following are likely to hinder recovery:

– continued exposure to stress

– substance misuse

(Click here to read more about this).

RESOURCE :

content_4964975_DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAIL

Above eBook now available on Amazon for immediate download. Other titles also available. CLICK HERE.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).