The Limbic System

Full Title: The Limbic System

Author: Liz Gagneaux

Date of Publication: July 29, 2013


Research Paper Text:

The Limbic System is the innermost part of the brain, which is located on both sides and below the thalamus. It comprises a complex set of brain structures. These brain structures are responsible for emotional life. They are involved in many emotions including anger, fear, pleasure, happiness and many more. Some limbic system structures are even involved in memory. “Emotions travel through our bodies and bind to small receptors on the outside of cells, which are much like tiny satellite dishes. Our emotions are constantly being processed by our bodies. The brain and body are exquisitely intertwined systems that are constantly interacting with the environment. All five senses are connected to this system. In fact, the more senses involved in an experience, the more the brain remembers it, the deeper the imprint on emotional systems.” Tian Dayton, PhD, TEP

An emotion that I’ve been working on with my dog is that whenever another dog tries to dominate him, he reacts immediately by spinning around so that he is in their face barking ferociously at them. In my opinion, he is telling them that he will not be dominated by them. He is not one to back down and submit to them. Like humans, the “bully” will back away when stood up to. However, even though I am glad he defends himself and there has been no biting or injuries, I don’t want him to stand up to the wrong dog who does not back away. Therefore, I have been working with him by using massage to break the limbic pattern.

Altering deep emotional patterns imprinted onto the limbic system is slow and painstaking work. The limbic system sets the mind’s emotional tone, filters external events through internal states(creates emotional coloring), tags events as internally important, and stores highly charged emotional memories, according to Daniel Amen, MD and author of Change Your Brain, Change Your Life.

“The mouth is one of the closest connections to the limbic system. Mouth work also stimulates the salivary glands, which in turn, trigger the relaxation-promoting parasympathetic nervous system. This quiets the sympathetic nervous system, which triggers the fight, flight or freeze response. It has been our experience, that by working the mouth, animals often relax, and in the process become more responsive, less reactive” according to Linda Tellington-Jones.

Mouthwork and other TTouches may affect the limbic system by eliciting a phenomenon which Herbert Benson, M.D., calls “breakout”, which changes unproductive mental patterns, and even in times of great stress or emotional trauma enables learning, enhances creativity and maximizes physical performance. To shift from a stressed state into this “breakout” state, it is necessary to engage in activities that trigger the release of nitrous oxide(NO) in the cells.

NO dilates blood vessels, improves memory and alters brain chemistry for a feeling of well-being. Mental or physical activities performed continuously for periods of at least 10-20 minutes once or twice daily prompt the release of NO. Benson specifically mentions activities such as running, walking, meditation, humming, rubbing or otherwise communication with a calm animal. This especially brings to mind the repetitive, circular movements of TTouch and the humming which is done synchronously with the TTouches.

According to the 11-2-12 Article in Aro-Healing about TTouch, we know the effects of TTouch are lasting and cumulative over time, so we’re able to teach our animals new, more effective ways of coping with the demands of the environment. Social animals rely upon bonding with each other to satisfy their needs not only for survival, but also for the actualization of self. TTouch can provide the glue which makes the bonds strong and resilient, so situations become less dangerous and less provocative of stress responses. Confidence replaces anxiety and apprehension. The learned reaction of releasing adrenalin can be unlearned, and even phobias benefit from the establishment of new neural pathways.

I have been doing TTouch on the mouth(flew area) of my dog by making tiny circles on gums and circular massage on the outside of the mouth.


I have also been massaging the buttocks and circling the tail as he seemed to be touchy in those areas when other dogs sniffed there. At first he didn’t like the massage on either the flew or the buttocks and would move around to get away from it, but it didn’t take many treatments before he accepted and enjoyed these areas as much as he enjoys massage on the rest of his body. He gets these areas massaged at least 3 times per week and we do walk every night. We have only had 1 incidence since I started this, where he let the other dog know to get away(the other dog was not neutered, was larger, and the owner knew that he was a dominating dog as she’d seen problems with other dogs also). A couple other dogs that may have been more dominant type dogs, he let sniff him and do the slow circle around him without incidence. He didn’t seem to be as bothered by them as I think he would have been before the massage. As stated above, altering emotions does take time, so I don’t expect every encounter with a dominating dog to no longer be an issue, but even if some of the encounters have been lessened then I am extremely happy and will continue my efforts.

Leave a Reply