Daily, we experience a wide range of emotions and feelings generated by the brain, but what part of the brain controls emotions and feelings? Read this article to discover the part of the brain responsible for everything we feel.
The brain is a tremendously intricate structure. Everything, from the movement of your fingers to your pulse rate, is coordinated and controlled by it. Managing and processing your emotions is another critical function of the brain. Experts still have many uncertainties regarding the brain’s function in a variety of emotions, but they have traced the origins of some popular ones, such as fear, anger, happiness, and love.
As we know that we are, emotionally charged beings and feelings appear to occur spontaneously and, at times, appear to be beyond our control. Emotions, on the other hand, are a mental process. Have you ever thought about what part of the brain controls emotions and feelings?
We understand everything there is to know about the brain centers that control respiration, balance, and speech. But what about our less tangible behaviors? How about our feelings and emotions? What are emotions? Here’s everything you need to know about what part of the brain controls emotions and feelings and how the brain processes emotions and feelings.
Table of Contents
What is the connection of emotions and feelings with the brain?
Paul Ekman, an anthropologist, argued in the 1970s that people might experience six primary emotions: anger, fear, surprise, disgust, joy, and sadness. Since then, there has been disagreement among scientists over the precise number of human emotions; some claim there are only four, while others put the number as high as 27.
Scientists also disagree on whether these traits are inherent to all human cultures and whether we acquire them via experience rather than being born with them. Even the meaning of emotion is in question. Another misconception is that since the beginning of time, we have held the brain accountable for our most logical and wisest actions while blaming the heart for our most intense emotions and feelings.
With modern research proving the theory wrong that the heart is the origin of emotions and feelings, it’s time we finally correct this awful error. Because, in actuality, the brain is the organ that controls all of our emotions. With research over the passage of time, scientists have made one thing certain: Different brain regions are active when an emotion or a feeling occurs. Thanks to modern scientific inventions like EEG, scientists can detect the generation of emotions and feelings from the brain.
What are emotions?
Emotions are reactions that people have in response to events or situations. The circumstance that causes the emotion determines the type of emotion the individual feels. For example, when a person receives excellent news, they feel delighted. When a person is endangered, they experience terror.
Emotions have a significant impact on our daily life. We make decisions based on how pleased, angry, depressed, bored, or dissatisfied we are. We choose activities and pastimes based on how they make us feel. Understanding emotions can help us navigate life more easily and steadily.
Everyone in the world has experienced emotions at some point in their lives, and everyone has been furious, shy, terrified, or ashamed. There are four elements to feeling an emotion, according to psychology professor James Gross:
- Your current circumstance (whatever is taking place in your life at that moment);
- The specifics you pay attention to;
- Your assessment of what it means to you personally in the scenario; and
- Your reaction, which includes any physical modifications (such as blushing or shaking), as well as your behaviors (like shouting or crying).
The Modal Model of Emotion refers to this four-step situation-attention-appraisal-response process. When something about your circumstance catches your attention, an emotion will likely follow. In other words, you become aware of a circumstance-relevant feature that pertains to you and your desires or ambitions.
You won’t feel strongly if nothing is going on in the world that matters to you. Once the pertinent aspect of the issue has caught your eye, you will interpret what this signifies specifically for you. This process of meaning-making is referred to as appraisal.
Once you have assessed the situation’s significance, you will then react emotionally to it. Depending on how you assessed the scenario, your response (for example, whether you were glad or upset) might differ. For instance, if you believed it to be unfair, you might become incensed. You can experience frustration if you feel as though your objectives are being obstructed. You might experience anxiety if you believe there may be a threat.
What are feelings?
“Feelings” can relate to both physical and emotional sensations. Physical phenomena are described by the sensations of pain, warmth, or cold. What we feel is described by emotions such as comfort, fear, and delight.
Understanding feelings is an important aspect of the human experience. Why? Because feelings influence how we experience our entire existence. Our feelings assist us in determining what is going on within. They are our body’s way of communicating how we are feeling in the world we exist in.
We can feel a wide range of emotions thanks to feelings. They enable us to feel the joys and sorrows that life and all of its ups and downs bring to us. They also assist us in forming and navigating relationships, making crucial life decisions, and recognizing our reactions to situations.
The difference between emotions and feelings
Most people have similar feelings and emotions. We would naturally recognize them as synonyms, two words with the same meaning. Even though they are interdependent, emotions and feelings are not the same things.
Emotions represent physiological states and are generated subconsciously. They are usually autonomous physical responses to external or internal events. On the other hand, feelings are subjective emotional experiences driven by conscious ideas and reflections. This suggests that we can have emotions without having feelings, but we cannot have feelings without having emotions.
Why do we have emotions and feelings?
Emotions might be annoying at times, such as in Disney films, yet they are an important aspect of humanity’s progress. Humans can achieve great things when they work together, such as hunting, developing societies, creating laws, waiting in a logical line, and much more. Emotional growth and the evolution of human society are inextricably linked. As our brains evolved, so did our ability to collaborate in increasingly big tribes or communities.
- Australopithecus africanus: group size of 70/80
- Homo erectus: group size of 90/120
- Homo sapiens: group size of 155
Emotions make it possible for us to get along with one another because they allow us to understand and predict how others will act. As a result, we can respond appropriately. For instance, receiving a smile and compliments from someone is comparable to receiving money.
What part of the brain controls emotions and feelings?
The limbic system is the area of the brain responsible for emotion regulation. Simply put, the limbic system influences everything that has to do with pleasure. For instance, when it comes to savoring a delectable meal or having sex.
Although we frequently make the error of dividing emotions into good and negative feelings, all emotions are vital and valuable since they give us humanity. Since they serve an adaptive purpose, knowing them is crucial if we want to employ them “intelligently” to our advantage.
The six f’s, which are incidentally lizards’ favorite (and sole) pastimes, are controlled by the limbic system (that is why the limbic system is sometimes referred to as the lizard brain) and include fighting, fleeing, feeding, fear, freezing up, and fornicating. You may have noticed that the six f’s are the best fundamentals for species to explore, expand, and reproduce, causing them to compete for mates and food and run away (or freeze) in order to survive.
This ancient portion of the human brain was and still is crucial to our survival, but it hasn’t developed to the point where it can distinguish between an approaching tiger and a high school math exam because both of these trigger similar kinds of physiological responses.
The limbic system is also referred to as the “emotional brain.” But is the phrase “emotional brain” really accurate? What are the parts of the limbic system? Is its operation that critical? You can learn the answers to these queries if you keep reading!
What is the limbic system?
Located in the top section of the brain stem beneath the cortex, the limbic system is made up of a group of brain regions that are regarded as being quite basic in evolutionary terms. It is a network of neurons in the brain that directly impacts human behavior due to its strong influence on emotions.
These structures are fundamentally engaged in developing many of our emotions and motives, notably those associated with survival, such as fear, anger, and sexual behavior. Fear, joy, sadness, rage, and all the other emotions we experience on a daily basis have a biological basis in this network.
On the other hand, this system also controls all aspects of the fundamental pleasure-related sensations that arise during eating and sexual activity. Similar to how they influence other human action domains like focus or learning, emotions also influence other human action domains. It’s hard for us to concentrate on a crucial activity while we’re upset or anxious, isn’t it? It turns out that the limbic system is to blame.
What are the parts of the limbic system?
The limbic system is a network of interconnected brain structures rather than a particular organ or body part. It contains the hippocampus and amygdala, which are each actually a pair of brain structures located on either side.
The hippocampi are crucial for memory, learning, knowledge storage over the long term, and spatial reasoning. The body uses the amygdala to process emotions. They aid in giving memories an emotional meaning. Memory, learning, and emotional control can all be impacted by issues with either of these organs.
The hypothalamus is a component of the limbic system. This organ performs various tasks by releasing hormones that support homeostasis, the body’s capacity to maintain essentially constant conditions. Neurons, the basal ganglia, regions of the prefrontal cortex, the cingulate gyrus, and the ventral tegmental area are some more limbic system organs.
How are the parts of the brain involved in generating emotions and feelings?
The amygdala and the hippocampus are two highly significant memory-related structures found within the complexity of the limbic system. These parts of the brain generate emotions that cater to different situations accordingly.
- Emotional development is influenced by the hippocampus and hypothalamus
- The thalamus
- The amygdala
- The prefrontal cortex
- The anterior cingulate gyrus
- Basal ganglia
- Temporal lobes
Emotional development is influenced by the hippocampus and hypothalamus
Other regions of the brain near the limbic system supplement this network of neurons. Two of the most significant ones are the hippocampus and hypothalamus. The first is in charge of the body’s release of all the ensuing hormones, while the second is in charge of the mental operations involved in remembering. This enables us to retain and commit to memory life’s most transcendental experiences—those that will subsequently guide our course of action.
The hippocampus is in charge of relaying these memories to the area of the cerebral hemisphere that will store them permanently, allowing for retrieval of those memories when essential, such as during an exam.
In addition, the hypothalamus is essential for controlling many other processes, including the regulation of hormones that frequently leave a lasting impression on our behavior and social projection, as well as body temperature, the pituitary, and the adrenal glands.
It has been discovered that any harm to the latter structure can prevent the ability to create new memories. The thalamus, another crucial component, is located in the diencephalon, an anterior region of the brain that is also a member of this intricate limbic system.
The thalamus links with other regions of the brain and spinal cord that are crucial for sensations, despite being more engaged in perception and movement regulation. The person’s emotional response is correlated with their tonsils.
This process also involves the amygdala because of its connection to the emotional reaction that particular circumstances elicit. Which memories are preserved and where in the brain they will be kept are both decisions made by the amygdala.
The orbitofrontal cortex is the final brain region. The frontal brain, which is in charge of organizing our actions, should receive emotional directives. It also bears responsibility for suppressing humans’ frequently regrettable illogical desires, albeit this is not its primary function. The amygdala, which is linked to the emotional reaction elicited by the situations encountered, is also a part of this process and the limbic system.
As a result, the amygdala is the primary control center of emotions and sentiments in the brain and the response to satisfaction or fear. It is a complex structure in the limbic system of the brain with an almond form.
On the other hand, the orbitofrontal cortex delivers emotional orders to the frontal lobe, and is in charge of organizing our activities once we receive an emotional impulse. However, this is not his most essential function; he also accepts responsibility for ending the irrational cravings that humans occasionally regret. While the thalamus is more engaged in perception and movement regulation, it also connects to other areas of the brain and spinal cord that are important in sensations.
Similarly, the hypothalamus regulates body temperature, the adrenal glands, and the pituitary gland, among many other activities, such as hormone regulation, which on many occasions significantly marks our behavior and social projection.
The prefrontal cortex
The prefrontal cortex is positioned in the brain’s front half. It is in charge of our concentration, planning, impulse control, emotional regulation, empathy, judgment, and insight. Healthy prefrontal brain activity promotes alertness, attentiveness, and a goal-oriented mentality.
When the prefrontal cortex is underactive, a person becomes disorganized, easily distracted, and occasionally antisocial. On the other hand, an overworked prefrontal cortex can create anxiety, inflexibility, and impulsiveness.
The anterior cingulate gyrus
The anterior cingulate gyrus is located in the medial section of the brain and runs longitudinally through the frontal lobes. It is the part of the brain that permits humans to be flexible and perceive choices in their life. That is why it is also known as the “brain gear shift” at times. People who have healthy activity in the anterior cingulate gyrus are more cooperative and adaptable to change.
On the other hand, people with anterior cingulate gyrus imbalance tend to overthink the future, harbor grudges against the past and feel insecure in their surroundings. Obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, and addiction disorders are some of the primary mental illnesses associated with abnormal anterior cingulate gyrus activity.
The basal ganglia are a wide group of nuclei that surround the deep limbic system. Its primary function is to combine motions, feelings, and thoughts. In other words, they are the areas of the brain that cause you to leap when you are surprised and freeze when you are shocked.
Low basal ganglia activity can produce movement difficulties and low motivation, whereas high basal ganglia activity can cause anxiety, work addiction, and muscle tension. The basal ganglia are also involved in the experience of pleasure or ecstasy. This is why certain recreational drugs, such as cocaine, have a greater impact on blood glucose levels.
The temporal lobes are located behind the eyes and below the temples. Memory, language learning, object identification, and mood stability are all controlled by them. Temperament issues, violence, and severe depression are commonly associated with temporal lobe dysfunction, particularly on the left side.
High activity in the right temporal lobe, on the other hand, can result in heightened sensory experience or an excessive feeling of intuition, making some people more religious than others. In summary, the limbic system is the region of our brain where our emotions and feelings are primarily created, where we store all of our good and bad memories, and where we manage our sensory experience, among other critical activities.
What parts of the brain control specific emotions and feelings?
The brain is as complex as it is. Thus, it’s quite difficult for scientists and researchers to pinpoint each and every aspect of the generation of emotions and feelings. Experts have many unanswered issues concerning the brain’s function in a variety of emotions, but they have identified the origins of certain popular ones, such as fear, anger, happiness, and love.
- The part of the brain that controls fear
- The part of the brain that controls anger
- The part of the brain that controls happiness
- The part of the brain that controls love
- The part of the brain that contains emotional memory
The part of the brain that controls fear
Fear is a crucial emotion from a biological perspective. It enables you to react skillfully to potentially dangerous situations. The amygdala is stimulated to produce this reaction, which is then followed by the hypothalamus. This explains why some people with amygdala-related brain impairment don’t always react appropriately to risky situations.
The fight-or-flight response starts when the amygdala activates the hypothalamus. To create hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, the brain sends signals to the adrenal glands. You may experience some physical changes while these hormones circulate in your blood, such as an increase in
- Heart rate
- Breathing rate
- Blood sugar
The amygdala plays a part in learning about fear in addition to starting the fight-or-flight response. This refers to the process by which you come to associate particular circumstances with feelings of fear.
The part of the brain that controls anger
Anger is a natural emotion that people experience in response to threats or stressful situations. You’ll probably act aggressively or angrily when you’re trapped in a potentially harmful position and can’t get out. The fight-or-flight reaction includes the reaction of rage and the urge to fight. Anger can also be brought on by frustration, such as running into obstacles when attempting to accomplish a goal.
Similar to how the amygdala stimulates the hypothalamus during a fear reaction, anger also begins with this process. The prefrontal cortex may possibly contribute to anger in certain small ways. Anger and violence are two emotions that people with injury in this area frequently struggle to regulate.
Parts of the brain’s prefrontal cortex may also play a role in the regulation of an angry response. People who have damage to this section of the brain may struggle to manage their emotions, notably anger and violence.
The part of the brain that controls happiness
Happiness is defined as an overall sense of well-being or satisfaction. When you are joyful, you generally have positive thoughts and feelings. According to imaging studies, the happiness response originates in part in the limbic cortex. Another area known as the precuneus also plays a role. The precuneus is important in memory retrieval, sustaining your sense of self, and focusing your attention as you move around your environment.
According to a 2015 study, those who had more gray matter in their right precuneus rated their happiness as higher. According to specialists, the precuneus interprets particular information and transforms it into sensations of enjoyment. Imagine, for instance, that you and a special someone had a lovely night out. You might feel happy in the future when you reflect on this experience and other enjoyable situations.
The part of the brain that controls love
The origins of romantic love are connected to the stress response that is induced by your hypothalamus, which may seem unusual. It makes more sense when you consider the jittery thrill or nervousness you experience when you fall in love.
When these feelings intensify, other chemicals, including dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin, are released by the hypothalamus. Your body’s reward system is linked to dopamine. This makes falling in love a desired emotion.
In a small study conducted in 2005, participants were shown a picture of someone they were romantically in love with. Then they showed them a photograph of a friend. When presented with a photo of someone they were in love with, the participants’ activity in dopamine-rich regions of the brain rose higher as compared to when they were shown a picture of their friend.
Oxytocin is also known as the “love hormone.” This is largely due to the fact that it increases when you embrace someone or have an orgasm. It’s made in the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland. It is also linked to social bonding.
This is essential for trust and relationship building. It can also create feelings of satisfaction and relaxation. Vasopressin is created similarly in the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland. It also participates in social bonding with a partner.
The part of the brain that contains emotional memory
In collaboration with the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala, the hippocampus is in charge of the acquisition, extinction, and recovery of fears of signals and concepts. It has long been contested whether fear is innate or learned; nevertheless, using the tried and true method of experimenting on neonates, they discovered that some fears appear to be innate.
Psychologists observed babies attempting to solve the conundrum using a plate of transparent plexiglass placed between two tables. The vast majority of them, it seems, refused to cross the plexiglass.
From an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense because babies who are not fearful have a lower chance of surviving. However, anxieties that are found in memories can be modified to fit new circumstances that people encounter throughout their lives. Even better, banishing or recalling these concerns can aid in people’s continued adaptation.
How does the brain process emotions and feelings?
Consider the history of evolution. It is understood that early organisms responded to their surroundings. However, as organisms grew in physical complexity, there was more mass and more systems that needed to be organized while reacting.
As a result, maturing brains required a method to place increasingly complex bodies in states that provided a unifying response to stimuli and experience. This is the basis for emotions. They are methods by which a complex organism establishes a “state” for responding.
Based on this evolutionary perspective, it is not surprising that the essential brain structures engaged in emotions are found in deep, core sections of the brain – places that have been there for a long time. This enables these systems to respond to incoming information more comprehensively and swiftly, synchronizing multiple body functions.
Having said that, we are now evolving logic structures in the brain – systems focused on analysis, extrapolation, abstraction, and other high-order data processing. These systems view the information in different ways.
They are less involved in reacting and more involved in “thinking about” how to react. Furthermore, the new systems are involved in “thinking about” possibilities – something that does not involve reaction but rather the possibility of later action. As a result, these new systems are best used when there is no emotional “load” (being “reactive”).
So we now have this tension in human brains: one system that seeks to react and another system that “thinks about” things. Both have value. The wise person learns from both and employs the systems in accordance with the requirements for optimal function.
How do different parts of the brain work together to process and regularize emotions and feelings?
Previously we learned about feelings, which scientists call emotions and how different parts of the brain are involved in generating certain emotions. We learned that emotions could cause physical reactions in your body. You are also aware that we sometimes experience multiple emotions at the same time and that it is sometimes necessary to control a feeling rather than act on it. This is referred to as emotion regulation.
Using MRI cameras, scientists discovered that several different parts of the brain process emotions. There is no single location where emotion is processed. Several brain regions collaborate as a team. This is why scientists claim that emotions are processed by a network of brain regions. An emotion-processing network is a grouping of brain areas that handle emotions and feelings.
The name of some of those brain regions that are activated by emotions is the amygdala, the prefrontal cortex, the cingulate cortex, the hippocampus, and the basal ganglia. We’ve discussed these names previously and have gone over their roles in generating emotions and feelings names, but it is not these names you need to remember.
It’s crucial to realize that several brain areas are active when processing emotions. Each of the many regions performs a specific task and cooperates to recognize and regulate emotion. For instance, the tiny amygdala, which is the size and shape of an almond and is located in the brain, is in charge of processing both positive and negative information. The amygdala is particularly crucial when we go through feelings of dread and fear.
The prefrontal cortex is a part of the network that processes emotions and gets its name from where it lies in the brain: in the front. Due to its role as a sort of control center that directs our behavior, the prefrontal cortex is also important for controlling emotions. The emotional network includes both the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. All these brain regions keep in touch and speak to one another frequently, just like dear friends.
The emotion center, the amygdala, for instance, can identify a significant frightful event and send the information to the prefrontal cortex (the control center). The prefrontal cortex is informed that there is a frightening event taking place.
The front of your skull contains a control center that, if necessary, sends instructions to other brain regions urging them to move your body and flee. To process and respond to an emotional situation, various brain regions collaborate with one another to generate a response.
How is the brain involved in the process of the appraisal?
The brain has multiple separate systems that link a stimulus to an emotional value. These systems are also closely linked to motivation, as our emotions frequently drive our actions. Emotional systems do not exist in isolation; rather, they interact with and impact one another.
The dopaminergic reward system, which includes the ventral tegmental region and the Nucleus Accumbens, is the first system involved in the assessment. These structures are located in the center and bottom of the brain, near the eyes, and as far back as the temples. This system reacts to incentives and pushes us to do something that makes us feel “happy.”
The circuits of the amygdala make up the second system. These are two almond-sized nerve clusters located in each temporal lobe. These predominantly mediate angry, fearful, and violent reactions.
Emotion is also related to other structures, such as the insula. The insula, which is Latin for “cave,” is a portion of the brain located at the side of the brain, concealed behind the fold of the frontal and temporal lobes. The anterior region plays a mediating role in disgust reactions.
How does emotional recognition take place?
A stereotyped reaction develops when these structures link a stimulus with a specific emotional value. For example, the amygdala is linked to the hypothalamus and can cause a rise in heart rate and blood pressure, both of which are significant components of fear or wrath. The insula is linked to visceral nerve tracts, which can cause nausea in the stomach. Our bodies can detect these symptoms and recognize emotions.
Centers of emotion project to parts of the cortex that allow us to notice an emotion is occurring in addition to observing changes in the body. The reward pathways, for example, go to the medial orbitofrontal cortex, which helps us determine future behaviors based on emotional input.
How does the brain regulate emotions and feelings?
There are instances when an emotion must be controlled. For example, we should not laugh at a funeral, even if someone is dressed outrageously. We may need to regulate the expression of an emotion as it arises. We may attempt to repress the feeling by not allowing our face or body to naturally express how we feel.
For example, if we encounter a tiger, we may still attempt to act bravely. We can reappraise, which means intentionally reframing the context of the stimulus that caused us to become emotional in the first place. For example, we could remind ourselves that it is only an image of a tiger, not the real thing.
In cases of emotional control, the orbitofrontal cortex engages, and injury to this region can result in impulsiveness and an inability to manage early emotions. The most famous case is Phineas Gage, a railway foreman who was involved in an accident that sent a big iron rod through this area of the brain.
According to his doctor’s assessments, he became more emotional and impulsive soon after the injury. Other research has found that as circumstances change, patients are unable to reappraise an emotional worth. For example, in an experiment where such patients are switched from a gambling task, they are more likely to choose huge rewards in the short term despite knowing that it is not in their long-term interests.
Many people believe that the right side of our brain is more engaged in processing emotions such as fear, sadness, and contempt. It has been claimed that the left hemisphere is more connected with happiness and possibly anger. These are likely oversimplifications. However, there are multiple studies to back up the general premise.
Why are emotions and feelings so hard to deal with if it is our own brain that creates them?
Many of us are slaves to our ideas and emotions because we are unaware of our ability to control them. You have no control over what others say to you or about you, but you do have control over how you respond.
Of course, it’s easier said than done, partly because our society is built around this kind of behavior. We need to apologize to other people for not acting in a way they had expected us to, even when we know deep down that it’s not always our fault.
Sometimes our environment drags us down, and we can’t perform as well as we should, but we don’t get support from the people we’re apologizing to; we just brush it aside with a sorry and go about our lives. This is similar to how the brain works. The brain has to react to the outside stimulus and generate responses according to the circumstances. If your brain reacts in any other way, then you probably need medical assistance.
Emotion is not just generated from one part of our brain but relies on several interwoven networks involving the amygdala, ventral tegmental area, orbitofrontal cortex, and many more, which all serve to appraise external stimuli, generate an initial emotional response and then regulate that response if needed.
The neurological and endocrine systems allow us to regulate our emotions since they control the various glands that emit substances that alter our state of mind, resulting in varied emotions. A disruption in this system can lead to a lack of emotion or too much, depending on the nature and location of the disturbance.
The brain is a complex organ that scientists are still striving to understand. Experts, however, have identified the limbic system as one of the brain’s primary regions regulating basic emotions. We’ll certainly learn more about the origins of more complicated emotions as technology advances and scientists gain a deeper understanding of the human mind.
In this article, we provided a response to the query, “What Part Of The Brain Controls Emotions and Feeling?”. We addressed what emotions are and how the brain affects their creation and perception. We also touched on “how does the brain process emotions and feelings.” In order to expand our horizons in terms of self-awareness, it’s necessary to learn how our bodily functions are carried out.