Updated: Dec 14, 2020
The brain is one of the body’s major organs that is needed for the survival. We actually cannot live after the brain no longer shows activity, unless we have the assistance of medical equipment. However, only some parts of the brain are needed for everyday living. Each part of the brain serves a different function. That's where the brain's control center becomes important.
What is the control center?
The brain’s control center (the limbic system) is a four-level system within the brain that is responsible for regulating emotions and providing us motivations for our actions. It is comprised of the hypothalamus, amygdala, hippocampus, and the limbic cortex, although there are some variations in this definition. While each part of this system is located in a different area of the brain, they all work in together in a in a specific order to help the us perceive, process, regulate, and react to emotions. The amygdala is thought to play a main role in emotion based responses particularly when fear, sadness, and emotional memories are evoked. The amygdala are two small almond shaped parts in the brain that are fully developed at birth. That means that unlike most of the other parts of your brain, your amygdala stays relatively immature throughout your lifetime.
Is the control center fully formed at birth, too?
Not quite. The control center is primarily formed during conception through age 2-years old. It is within this preverbal time of life that exposure and practice increases one’s capacity for emotional stress. That means, when babies and young children experience either a lot of stress or a few events that are very intense, their brain's control center can become super sensitive to perceiving threat even when threat may not be realistic. Having a hypersensitive control center can lead to long-term negative outcomes such as socioemotional problems, physical health concerns, delays in learning, disrupted attention, behavioral difficulties, and host of other consequences.
Okay, so here is what we hope you leave knowing.
Our brain's control center develops very early in life. Therefore, it is important that we nurture young children as they encounter potentially scary situations.
Be compassionate with yourself and with those around you. What is scary to one person, may not be scary to another person.
Whenever and whereever possible, limit your child's exposure to potentially emotionally harmful situations even when they are a baby or toddler. While they may never be able to tell you those memories, their control center will hold those events and may become overactive because of them.
One thing that you can do when you or your child is feeling sudden alarmed when in a safe environment, is pausing to notice the environment using their senses. A short game of "I Spy" can be a mindful moment for young children.
Stay tuned for next week where we will be going a little deeper into the timeline of te control center. Thank you for taking the time to read this page. Regardless of what you brought to this post, I hope you that find a moment to play a little today.
This was a little information about feelings, responses, and child development basics, and the control center of the brain. Feel free to leave a comment. Share this with others.
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Ng, R., Lai, P., Brown, T. T., Järvinen, A., Halgren, E., Bellugi, U., & Trauner, D. (2017). Neuroanatomical correlates of emotion-processing in children with unilateral brain lesion: A preliminary study of limbic system organization. Social neuroscience, 1-13. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17470919.2017.1386126
Rolls, E. T. (2015). Limbic systems for emotion and for memory, but no single limbic system. Cortex, 62, 119-157. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010945213003110
Shore, R. (1997). Rethinking the brain: New insights into early development.