Conclusions

Extensive preclinical and clinical observations have suggested that the limbic system structures are critical in emotional behavior. Limbic structures have also been found to be important in social behavior, cognition, and autonomic responses. The limbic system, however, has extensive direct interconnections with all brain regions, and the extent to which the limbic system functions as a network itself remains to be determined. Perhaps the limbic system concept will lose its heuristic appeal as we improve our definitions of emotional states, and the roles of discrete structures and small circuits important in motivation (Kalivas, Churchill, & Romanides, 1999), fear (LeDoux, 1996), and other emotional behaviors. Alternatively, as some imaging studies suggest, we may actually confirm that emotional behaviors do not arise from the activity of single brain regions, but instead emerge from the coordinated action of many connected structures. New techniques in functional imaging and noninvasive regional brain stimulation will allow for direct testing of the limbic system construct in normal function and in psychiatric and medical disorders. Broca's lim-bic lobe, initially thought to be important by some only in olfaction, is certainly no longer ignored.

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