Cingulate Gyrus and the Limbic System

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

A gyrus is a fold or "bulge" in the brain. The cingulate gyrus is the curved fold that covers the corpus callosum. It is a component of the limbic system and involved in processing emotions and behavior regulation. It also helps to regulate autonomic motor function. The cingulate gyrus can be 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. This includes Broca's area, which controls motor functions involved with speech production. The 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. The anterior cingulate gyrus also has connections with the amygdala. This brain structure processes emotions and relates them to particular events. It is also responsible for fear conditioning and relating memories to sensory information received from the thalamus.

Another limbic system structure that plays a role in memory formation and storage, the hippocampus, also has connections to the anterior cingulate gyrus. Connections with the hypothalamus allow the cingulate gyrus to regulate endocrine hormone release and autonomic functions of the peripheral nervous system.

Some of these functions include heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure regulation. These changes occur when we experience emotions such as fear, anger, or excitement. 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

Problems relating to the cingulate gyrus are associated with a number of emotional and behavioral disorders including depression, anxiety disorders, and obsessive compulsive disorders.

Individuals may experience chronic pain or display addictive behaviors such as drug or alcohol abuse and eating disorders. Individuals with an improper functioning cingulate gyrus have problems communicating and dealing with changing situations. Under such conditions, they may become angry or easily frustrated and have emotional or violent outbursts. Cingulate gyrus dysfunction has also been linked to attention deficit disorders, schizophrenia, psychiatric disorders, and autism.

Divisions of the Brain

  • Forebrain - encompasses the cerebral cortex and brain lobes.
  • Midbrain - connects the forebrain to the hindbrain.
  • Hindbrain - regulates autonomic functions and coordinates movement.

Sources:

  • Lavin C, Melis C, Mikulan E, Gelormini C, Huepe D and Ibañez A (2013) The anterior cingulate cortex: an integrative hub for human socially-driven interactions. Front. Neurosci. 7:64. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2013.00064
  • "Overfocusing: Cognitive Inflexibility and the Cingulate Gyrus". Madelyn Griffith-Haynie. ADD and So Much More. Updated September 18, 2012. https://addandsomuchmore.com/2012/09/18/overfocusing-cognitive-inflexibility-and-the-cingulate-gyrus/.
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Bailey, Regina. "Cingulate Gyrus and the Limbic System." ThoughtCo, Aug. 29, 2016, thoughtco.com/cingulate-gyrus-and-the-limbic-system-4078935. Bailey, Regina. (2016, August 29). Cingulate Gyrus and the Limbic System. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/cingulate-gyrus-and-the-limbic-system-4078935 Bailey, Regina. "Cingulate Gyrus and the Limbic System." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/cingulate-gyrus-and-the-limbic-system-4078935 (accessed November 21, 2017).