The "emotional center" of the brain, the limbic system, is a set of midbrain
structures involved with emotions, sexual behavior
, eating behavior, memory and other functions.
In 1937 J. Papez theorized that emotions are controlled by a set of brain structures (the Papez Circuit). The Papez Circuit includes the thalamus, hypothalamus, cingulate gyrus and hippocampus.
In 1949, Paul MacLean expanded upon Papez Circuit, calling it the limbic system. He discovered that in mammals, the relative size of the limbic system was the same. From these findings he concluded that the limbic system (the Papez-MacLean Circuit) controlled all primitive functions shared by mammals.
Circuits of the Limbic System
MacLean proposed that there are three main "sub circuits" of the limbic system.
- Survival Circuit: amygdala and hippocampus
- Pleasure Circuit: cingulate gyrus, septum and part of hypothalamus
- Social Circuit: thalamus and hypothalamus
The limbic system is also associated with memory
function, as it provides the emotional association
with a memory.
Klein, Stephen B. Biological Psychology New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 2000.