What Part of the Brain Controls Emotions?

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The limbic system is responsible for processing and controlling emotions in the human brain. The limbic system contains several structures, which are the hypothalamus, the hippocampus and the amygdala. Together, these components work to create simple and complex emotions, and they rely on the nervous system to help people express and convey thoughts, ideas and feelings.

Of all the components in the limbic system, the hypothalamus is one of the most prominent. This structure is small; it is located just beneath the thalamus, and it covers both sides of the third ventricle. The hypothalamus is situated inside two tracts of the optic nerve and is located just above the pituitary gland, an adrenal organ that shares duties with the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is responsible for several tasks, including homeostasis, which is the process of regulating processes in human bodies, and keeping levels of chemicals, hormones and other substances in balance. According to Ship, the hypothalamus alerts the body when it is time to sleep, eat and drink by sending signals that people interpret as fatigue, hunger and thirst. The hippocampus essentially acts as a large data system; here is where short-term and long-term moods, thoughts and memories are stored. The amygdala regulates emotions of fear and excitement, and it initiates the “fight or flight” response.