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- The limbic system is one of the most critical and life-sustaining systems in the body.
- The limbic system manages many of the basic control functions necessary for self-preservation.
- The limbic system’s various structures comprise many critical functions.
- Limbic system injury or dysfunction can lead to specific diseases and multisystem, chronic illnesses.
- The limbic system may become overly sensitive and react to stimuli that it typically would not consider dangerous to the body
- Hypersensitivity of the limbic system can bring on a cascade of physiological changes that spiral into chronic suffering.
- Limbic system retraining methods can help address limbic hypersensitivity. This in turn may target the root source of some chronic illnesses.
- Different limbic retraining programs include BrainTap, DNRS™, FSM, and PEMF.
“Happiness is a mental state activated by the limbic system.”
—Antonio Damasio, a Portuguese-American neuroscientist
The human brain is an extraordinary organ. Its miracles and mysteries are truly mind-blowing. Although it’s one of the most studied structures in the body, there is still much more to discover about how it functions. In spite of this, we do know that within brain are various systems with have specialized roles in making the body work. One of the most important of these systems, and one you can’t live without, is the limbic system.
The limbic system is typically referred to as the emotional “feeling and reacting” brain. However, the brain is a complex and fascinating organ and functions as an interconnected whole. The limbic system may become hypersensitive and react to stimuli that it would typically not consider dangerous to the body. Then, it can get stuck in this reactive mode, causing continual and inappropriate activation of the autonomic nervous, endocrine, and immune systems. This often results in poor body function and many kinds of detrimental symptoms. Fortunately, there are limbic system retraining and rewiring options for chronic illness sufferers with a “stuck” limbic system. (1)
Limbic System Retraining:
How Rewiring the Brain Can Heal Chronic Illness
The limbic system, as we know it today, was defined by physiologist Paul D. MacLean in 1949. He elaborated on the initial conceptualization of this system and gave it its current name. The limbic system has several functions. But most of them are basic control functions necessary for self-preservation and the survival of a species. (2)
The limbic system regulates autonomic nervous system, endocrine, and immune function, particularly in response to emotional triggers. This also influences motivation, affects reinforcing behaviors, and sets arousal levels. Other regions within the limbic system are closely connected to the olfactory (sense of smell) system as well.
Anatomy of the Limbic System
Limbic system areas fall into two categories.
- Subcortical structures
- Portions of the cerebral cortex
The limbic system can be further broken down into 1) an input and processing side and 2) an output side. The primary structures in the limbic system include the: (3)
- Amygdala—The emotion center of the brain
- Basal ganglia—Organizes motor behavior and coordinates rule-based, habit learning
- Cingulate gyrus—Coordinates smells and sights with pleasant memories, helps regulate aggression, and provokes an emotional reaction to pain
- Hippocampus—Plays a crucial role in forming new memories about past experiences
- Hypothalamus and thalamus—Associated with changes in emotional reactivity
Function of the Limbic System
The limbic system is characterized as the “feeling and reacting” area of the brain that is located between the “thinking brain” and the nervous system output. The limbic system is typically under the control of the “thinking brain” but can react on its own as well.
Functions of the limbic system’s various structures include the following: (4)
► Addiction and motivation
The reward-seeking activity underlying addictive behavior comes from specific limbic structures. Limbic areas also contribute to motivated behavior, as well as the motivation and compulsion to abuse drugs.
► Appetite and eating behaviors
► Emotional responses
- Autonomic and endocrine responses to emotion. Limbic stimulation leads to changes in blood pressure and respiration. The massive sympathetic activation during stress is called the “flight-or-fright response.” In response to stress, corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) releases. CRH release manages endocrine and immune responses.
- Fear. Stimulation of the amygdala and hypothalamus produce fear responses. The amygdala is also involved in fear learning.
- Rage and placidity. The limbic system mediates rage responses.
- Diencephalic memory system. This system is important for the storage of recent memories.
- Emotional memory. Emotion has a potent influence on memory and learning. Specific structures in the limbic system consolidate and retrieve emotional memories. Fear, fear learning, and long-term memory storage are housed here as well.
- Medial temporal lobe memory system. This system is involved in the storage of new memories.
The limbic structures have a role in processing your sense of smell.
► Sexual behavior
The limbic system can activate or inhibit sexual response. A specific area of the hypothalamus plays a key role in the central control of male sexual behavior.
► Sleep and dreaming
During dreaming, the limbic system is one of the most active brain areas. A nucleus within the hypothalamus controls the sleep-wake (circadian rhythm) cycle. The ventrolateral preoptic nucleus (VLPO) has an inhibitory action on arousal. It is a sleep switch, promoting sleep and the REM state.
► Social cognition
Social cognition requires limbic action. Its though processes involve understanding and dealing with other people. Working together, areas of the limbic regions support the complex behaviors needed for social interactions.
Diseases Associated with Limbic System Dysfunction
- Alexithymia (an inability to express and recognize emotions)
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Anxiety disorders
- Kluver-Bucy syndrome
- Korsakoff’s psychosis
- Mood disorders (such as bipolar disorder and depression)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Limbic dysfunction is implicated in other common multisystem illnesses, including:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
- Chronic pain
- Electrical hypersensitivity (EHS)
- Food sensitivities
- Inflammatory conditions
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS)
- Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS)
These illnesses, and many others, show how critical a well-functioning limbic system can be. Indeed, the limbic system is an extremely vital brain region.
Limbic System Hypersensitivity
The limbic system may become overly sensitive and react to stimuli that it typically would not consider dangerous to the body. This can lead to inappropriate activation of the autonomic nervous, endocrine, and immune systems. And, in turn, poor body function and a variety of symptoms.
Exposure to any chemical or electrical stimuli can result in hypersensitivity in the neurons of the limbic system. People suffering from “invisible illnesses” (those without external signs/symptoms) often say that their illness came on after specific events, including: (9)
- Bacterial, fungal, parasitic, or viral infection
- Electromagnetic radiation (living near high voltage power lines or cell towers)
- Emotional trauma
- Physical trauma
- Prolonged or severe psychological stress
- Toxic chemical exposures (glyphosate, heavy metals, PCBs, pesticides, PFAs)
- Toxic mold exposure (mycotoxins)
These can all potentially trigger limbic system hypersensitivity. This then brings a cascade of physiological changes that spiral into chronic suffering.
The limbic system maintains homeostasis in the body. If it is chronically and inappropriately activated, the effects can be devastating. The “sustained arousal” state explains why people with chronic illnesses are often sensory-sensitive.
Sensory-sensitive people may react strongly to light, sound, and touch. They may also have sensitivities to drugs and supplements, environmental chemicals, and foods. Another significant trigger is electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) and electromagnetic radiation (EMR) given off by Bluetooth, cell towers, electronic appliances, “smart” devices, Wi-Fi, etc. (9)
Limbic hypersensitivity may be the root cause of some chronic illnesses. Luckily, recent groundbreaking discoveries address this root cause. Limbic retraining programs and systems target brain neuroplasticity (reorganizing and rewiring the brain). The end goal is to restore and normalize the limbic system.
Limbic System Retraining
In recent years, numerous programs have been developed to help affected individuals recover. You may hear them referred to as amygdala retraining, brain retraining, or limbic system therapy. Chronic multisystem disorders are complex. They are often considered “invisible illnesses” and have baffled doctors and researchers for years. Conventional medicine currently offers ways to treat the physical and psychiatric symptoms of these illnesses but doesn’t address the root cause.
Brain retraining programs prompt the limbic system to react with less sensitivity to chemical, environmental, and psychological stimuli. Then the autonomic nervous, endocrine, and immune responses can stabilize again. These programs aim to normalize limbic system function and reduce symptoms. People who use these systems and programs often report full recoveries and can return to living active and rewarding lives. (9)
Brain retraining programs use mental techniques and mind-body therapies to practice daily at home. Over a length of time, these techniques and therapies rewire the limbic system and reduce symptoms gradually. Let’s explore some of the current options available.
BrainTap is a powerful and effective tool designed to achieve balanced brainwave states. It can enhance the production of the brain’s neurotransmitters, needed for the optimal function of the body and mind. It synchronizes brainwaves to a specialized sound without effort on the part of the user. The end result is full-spectrum brainwave activity. BrainTap’s sessions are each encoded differently to ensure maximum neuroplasticity. This allows the brain to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections.
According to BrainTap, their neuro-algorithm produces brainwave entrainment through the symmetry of music, sound, and the spoken word. These include:
- Binaural beats
- Guided visualization
- Isochronic tones
- 10-cycle holographic music
Alongside brainwave training, it offers relaxation benefits similar to those of meditation. The result is a flexible and resilient brain.
Dynamic Neural Retraining System™ (DNRS™)
The Dynamic Neural Retraining System™ (DNRS™) is a step-by-step limbic rehabilitation program. DNRS™ uses neuroplasticity therapy to rewire the limbic system and build healthier neural pathways.
Trauma and chronic stress can lead to the disorganization of neural networks. This may cause the deep protective mechanisms in the limbic system to fire more rapidly and unnecessarily. As a result, this produces a heightened chronic stress response. Symptoms may include brain fog, chronic inflammation, chronic pain, digestive issues, fatigue, memory problems, sensitivities, and other ailments. Absorption of nutrients, cellular communication, and detoxification can also become compromised. (10)
DNRS™ helps people understand how trauma may lead to disturbed stress responses deep within the circuits of the brain. To do this, it prompts the “curious observer” perspective. This helps you observe harmful behavioral and emotional patterns. DNRS™ teaches practical tools that aim to change and redirect maladaptive neural patterns.
DNRS™ is an experiential, step-by-step process that employs emotional restructuring, language, movement, spatial, and visual exercises. With regular practice, this can ease the firing of threat and protective mechanisms, allowing for the formation of newer, healthier neural pathways.
Keep in mind DNRS™ and similar programs — such as Gupta Program Brain Retraining™ — are not quick fixes. Immediate results can happen. But you need to invest time and effort until the new, healthy neural pathways are fully entrenched in the limbic system.
Frequency Specific Microcurrent (FSM) Therapy
Microcurrent devices deliver frequencies of current in microamps of electricity. Published studies have found these devices to increase energy production in cells by 500%. They can help the limbic stress center to restore the balance between the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-fright response) and the parasympathetic nervous system (rest, digest, and repair). (11)
The microcurrent works to change the chemical and electrical activity of certain nerve cells in the brainstem. It also amplifies activity in some neurological systems and deactivates activity in others. This fine-tuning occurs from, or together with, an alpha state brain wave pattern. When you’re in an alpha state, you’re in a state of wakeful relaxation. Being in an alpha state has many benefits, including stress relief. (12, 13)
Healthcare professionals, military and veteran medical centers, and physicians worldwide have used microcurrent devices as an effective, drug-free option. It can help treat anxiety, depression, insomnia, and pain that may exist as a result of limbic imbalance. Some devices, such as Alpha-Stim, use a microcurrent of less than one-half micro delivered directly into the brain via electrodes. This technique is called Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES). (14)
Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) Therapy
Bio Electromagnetic Energy Regulation devices use a pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) to target limbic cells. These electromagnetic fields tune to specific frequencies.
The magnetic field generated helps with the expansion and contraction of cells. This allows cells to circulate nutrients better. Moving oxygen-saturated blood through cells helps them detoxify. PEMF might also help cells recharge. (15)
In addition to limbic system retraining, you can also use PEMF as an electrotherapeutic for chronic pain. It can improve blood circulation by optimizing the energy of cells in the capillaries and arteries. Improved circulation helps ease pain, reduce swelling, regenerate damaged tissue, and repair fractured and torn bones and tendons.
The FDA approved PEMF therapy in 1979. It also has numerous peer-reviewed studies highlighting its safety and effectiveness in speeding the body’s recovery at a cellular level. (16)
Limbic System Retraining and Chronic Illness
A word to the wise — you’re probably not doing anything wrong when it comes to your emotional reactions. A system within your brain may just be impaired due to circumstances beyond your control. Fortunately, you have the power to change this! When you form new neural pathways as a result of limbic system retraining, you may get the following positive results:
- Emotional and physical healing can take place
- Mindset shifts
- Stress responses normalize
- The brain and body function better
A multifaceted approach to healing chronic illness — including retraining the limbic system — may get you back to a healthy, active, and high-quality life.