Cingulate Gyrus and the Limbic System

Brain: Cingulate Gyrus
Illustration of the Cingulate Gyrus of the Brain. Credit: MediaForMedical/UIG/Getty Images

Gyrus is a fold or "bulge" in the brain. The cingulate gyrus is the curved fold covering the corpus callosum. A component of the limbic system, it is involved in processing emotions and behavior regulation. It also helps to regulate autonomic motor function.

For purposes of study and medical diagnosis, the cingulate gyrus is divided into anterior and posterior segments. Damage to the cingulate gyrus may result in cognitive, emotional, and behavioral disorders.

Functions

  • Coordinates Sensory Input With Emotions
  • Emotional Responses to Pain
  • Regulates Aggressive Behavior
  • Communication
  • Maternal Bonding
  • Language Expression
  • Decision Making

The anterior cingulate gyrus is involved in a number of functions including emotional processing and vocalization of emotions. It has connections with speech and vocalization areas in the frontal lobes including Broca's area, which controls motor functions involved with speech production.

The anterior cingulate gyrus is involved in emotional bonding and attachment, particularly between mother and child. This bonding happens as frequent vocalization takes place between mothers and their infants. Not coincidentally, the anterior cingulate gyrus also has connections with the amygdala, the brain structure which processes emotions and relates them to particular events, thus also facilitating the bonding process.

The anterior cingulate gyrus and amygdala work together to form fear conditioning and memory association with sensory information received from the thalamus as well. Another limbic system structure, the hippocampus, also has connections to the anterior cingulate gyrus, playing a key role in memory formation and storage.

Collaboration between the anterior cingulate gyrus and the hypothalamus allow physiologic controls such as regulation of endocrine hormone release and autonomic functions of the peripheral nervous system. These changes occur when we experience emotions such as fear, anger, or excitement. Some of these functions include heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure regulation.

Another important function of the anterior cingulate gyrus is to aid in the decision-making process. It does so by detecting errors and monitoring negative outcomes. This function helps us in planning appropriate actions and responses.

The posterior cingulate gyrus plays a role in spatial memory which involves the ability to process information regarding the spatial orientation of objects in an environment. Connections with the parietal lobes and temporal lobes enable the posterior cingulate gyrus to influence functions related to movement, spatial orientation, and navigation. Connections with the midbrain and spinal cord allow the posterior cingulate gyrus to relay nerve signals between the spinal cord and brain.

Location

Directionally, the cingulate gyrus is superior to the corpus callosum. It is located between the cingulate sulcus (groove or indentation) and the sulcus of the corpus callosum.

Cingulate Gyrus Dysfunction

Emotional and behavioral disorders relating to the cingulate gyrus include depression, anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Cingulate gyrus dysfunction has also been linked to attention deficit disorders, schizophrenia, psychiatric disorders, and autism.

Individuals with an improperly functioning cingulate gyrus often have problems communicating and dealing with changing situations. Under such conditions, they may become angry or easily frustrated and have emotional or violent outbursts.

Physiologically, individuals may experience chronic pain or display addictive behaviors such as drug or alcohol abuse and eating disorders.