Limbic system injury

Limbic system injury

Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

Limbic System: Collective term denoting a heterogeneous array of brain structures at or near the edge (limbus) of the medial wall of the cerebral hemisphere, in particular the hippocampus (A complex neural structure shaped like a sea horse consisting of grey matter and located on the floor of each lateral ventricle; intimately involved in motivation and emotion as part of the limbic system; has a central role in the formation of memories), amygdala (an almond-shaped neural structure in the anterior part of the temporal lobe of the cerebrum; intimately connected with the hypothalamus and the hippocampus and the cingulated gyrus; as part of the limbic system it plays an important role in motivation and emotional behavior), and fornicate gyrus (the horseshoe-shaped cortical convolution bordering the hilus of the cerebral hemisphere; its upper limb is formed by the cingulate gyrus, its lower by the parahippocampal gyrus).

Besides the hypothalamus, hippocampus, and amygdala, there are other areas in the structures near to the limbic system that are intimately connected to it:

    The cingulate gyrus is the part of the cerebrum that lies closest to the limbic system, just above the corpus collosum. It provides a pathway from the thalamus to the hippocampus, seems to be responsible for focusing attention on emotionally significant events, and for associating memories to smells and to pain.

  • The ventral tegmental area of the brain stem (just below the thalamus) consists of dopamine pathways that seem to be responsible for pleasure. People with damage here tend to have difficulty getting pleasure in life, and often turn to alcohol, drugs, sweets, and gambling.

  • The basal ganglia (including the caudate nucleus, the putamen, the globus pallidus, and the substantia nigra) lie over and to the sides of the limbic system, and are tightly connected with the cortex above them. They are responsible for repetitive behaviors, reward experiences, and focusing attention. If you are interested in learning more about the basal ganglia, click here.

  • The prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the frontal lobe which lies in front of the motor area, is also closely linked to the limbic system. Besides apparently being involved in thinking about the future, making plans, and taking action, it also appears to be involved in the same dopamine pathways as the ventral tegmental area, and plays a part in pleasure and addiction.

Limbic system Functions:

The limbic system in our brains serves as an organizer of information presented from sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. In fact, all of the information presented to the brain either sensory, imaginative, verbal, motor, invisible (electromagnetic, trace chemicals, etc.), internal from hormones, chemicals, etc. and external is processed at some point through the limbic system. It is a pathway between the thinking and acting part of your brain (cortex) and the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus in turn regulates water balance, hunger, thirst, body temperature, circadian rhythms, and hormone production by the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland in turn influences the thyroid, adrenal, testes and ovaries. One can describe it as a communications network between that which is automatic (unconscious or autonomic) and that which becomes physical or emotional behavior.

An injury to the limbic system might cause an abnormal communication of information to higher centers and cause an inappropriate response. For example a slight chemical exposure might be interpreted by the brain as a toxic chemical. Where the limbic system is injured determines the kind of disturbance you might experience. For example, a temporal lobe injury might cause problems with recalling memories at will.

    The limbic system can be injured by trauma such as a fall, auto accident, an object striking the head, concussion, etc.

  • It may also be injured by a transient lack of oxygen that might occur during surgery, a stroke, overexertion at high altitude, a seizure, childbirth, etc.

  • The limbic system may also be injured during an infection either in the brain or near the brain such as meningitis, encephalitis, a severe ear or deep sinus infection, etc.

  • It can be surprising the number of possible initiating or exacerbating events identified with a careful review of your own delivery, childhood, adult life, etc.

  • Many may have seemed minor at the time and taken for granted. Stress, lack of sleep, intake of certain foods, and weather changes seem to make the limbic system more susceptible to improper functioning. Because the nose allows chemicals to enter the brain directly (olfactory center), chemical sensitivity can develop through a process described as "kindling" and cause the limbic system to send messages making you feel ill. Very low levels of chemicals can thus influence the way we feel.


Symptoms may include:

    Disturbance of auditory sensation and perception.

  • Disturbance of selective attention of auditory and visual input.

  • Disorders of visual perception.

  • Impaired organization and categorization of verbal material.

  • Disturbance of language comprehension.

  • Impaired long-term memory.

  • Altered personality and affective behavior.

  • Altered sexual behavior.

  • Gastrointestinal disorders.

  • Insomnia.

  • Being overly emotional.

  • Poor sleep.


    Modern imaging studies can now localize lesions with great accuracy. MRI tends to be better than CT.

  • If metastatic cancer is suspected, a CXR is required.

  • Visual field defects can be assessed by perimetry.

  • A possible or certain diagnosis of a cerebrovascular event (CVE) requires investigation.


Medical Treatment: Treatment is mainly based on symptoms. Medications for persons with brain injury are carefully selected, prescribed, and monitored by the physician on an individual basis. The physician must explain medication's purpose, side effects and precautions.

Treatment of symptoms is much as for other conditions and includes graded resumption of activity, antidepressant medication, and cognitive restructuring. Early single session therapy can prevent post-concussion syndrome following mild head injury as effectively as traditional outpatient therapy

Disclaimer: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


  1. EMMA

    Hi i had a fall 18 months ago, and hit right hand side of forhead since then pesonality changes have emerged,decision making growing more difficult and poor judgements memory loss and depression i am 43 and finding work more difficult due to lack of connections to responsibility,i am not me.what should i say to doctor?
    Many thanks Emma

    • maisteri

      The symptoms you experience may be caused by the injury of the frontal lobe of the brain. Describe the doctor (you need to see a neurologist) your feelings and what bothers you. He will suggest you an MRI scanning of the brain to verify the diagnosis.

  2. Constance Kathryn Luisi

    I have had multiple MRI”s which have shown an increasing number of hyperintensities and the latest noted left hippicampal shrinkage. One cervical MRI noted low attenuating cerebral tonsils that didnt quite meet criteria for chiari. But I have been declining slowly since my first lumbar surgery in 2002. Once a six figure exec, I am now on disability and have severe symptoms of TBI, more specifically limbic system damage. Emotional, perceptual, physical, etc. I was burned badly as an infant, have had several concussions, many surgeries, was sexually assaulted in my teens, have had over 30 MRI’s and CT’s, was given 9 epiderals within 3 months and got steroid mania, had significant CO2 exposure in a rental. No lesions found on imaging does not mean proper functioning of limbic system. Pls read “wired for healing” by Annie Hopper. based on her questionnaire, i have significant limbic impairment from physical, emotional, chemical, surgical and early childhood trauma.

    • John

      You may have Gadolinium toxicity due to so many MRI’s Google the symptoms. I suffer from it as well.

  3. Andrew

    Can severe injury in the limbic system cause a stroke?

    • maisteri

      Rather opposite – a stroke may affect the limbic system. Stroke may develop as the result of high blood pressure, aneurysm rupture or thromboembolism, head injuries may cause intracranial hemorrhages – more common are subdural and epidural hematomas, although intraparenchymal hemorrhage (bleeding into the brain tissues) is also possible.

  4. Charlotte Rice

    In 2004 an assault* left me with a broken scapula, rotor cuff damage & as time (yrs) passed, I believe I may have suffered
    brain trauma, possibly to my limbic system. *I was chased down by a strong man whom jumped on top of me, grabbing my blouse with his fist’s, began lifting me & slamming me into hard dirt. I quit struggling because I was over powered. I was terribly ashamed & didn’t see a Dr. for some time & my head/brain was/has never been addressed or related to this injury other than in the past several years I’ve been with a Psycologist’s that tells me, “it’s just depression”.
    To this point in 2004, since 1989, I was a successful Realtor, raised 3 successful children, had a Specialty Shop, raised a lot of children, worked well with juveniles, attended college to teach, taught school, volunteered, traveled & was looking forward to working in my garden, playing with my Grandchildren. Subtly several years went by; I had lost everything. I brought my office home finding it more & more difficult to find a reason to leave my house, relate to people. It still can be of issue. I have been diagnosed with depression, PTSD, ADD – prescribed Ritylin, Lexapro, Cymbalta, plus other’s I wished not to try; I was told I would adjust to the horrible, stoned feeling that you cannot get out of or away from in these drugs. I am depressed. I’ve always been enthusiastic, a hard worker, had ideas, loved to make plans, write. That person has long since left the building. To write; by the time I get a paper & pen, my thought has dissipated. I can still carry on a reasonable conversation when I’m put in a situation but unlike me, I will not start the conversation, call to visit. I don’t seem to hang on to an excitement, a joy. It is all in the moment & gone.
    In 2010 I was diagnosed with 3rd stage rectal cancer, so of course chemo & radiation took their toll. In 2011/12 I was taking care of a brilliant man (we are both 71 now) that suffered a serious stroke causing dibilitating aphasia. Enlightened through his therapy that perhaps my brain, particularly my limbic system, may have caused my decrease in motivation, emotion, enthusiasm of life & events, other than severe depression & sadness?
    If this were the case that brain trauma caused such a personality change, is there medicine, therapy, anything that can help me regain a spirit, & what Dr/person’s could help in determining my condition?
    Thank you for your consideration in this matter.
    Charlotte Rice

    • maisteri

      Dear Charlotte,
      Unfortunately it seems that the only appropriate option for you is psychotherapy. There is no other way to help you to face all your struggles and regain your strong will. Try to look for a good psychotherapist in your hometown – his assistance will be helpful. Additionally, you may consult with a neurologist, maybe perform an MRI or PET scan to check for a neurologic condition affecting your mood, although it’s unlikely. Good luck and stay strong! We hope that you’ll get better soon and will blossom again!
      Medigoo team

    • David miller

      Hello Charlotte.
      I am so sorry for your experiences.
      I am realizing, 3 years after trauma to my neck, that I am experiencing what you have described. I believe that Lord is bringing us together… Please contact me. God bless you my dear. You are in my prayers.
      Sincerely, David Miller

    • dave

      Physiotherapy may help also. Movement is very important at any age!


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