Notebook, 1993-

Return to - Notes for a Perspective on Art Education -- NOTES on Child Development -- Human Development

The Brain, Biology, and Behavior -- The Nervous System -- The Endocrine System -- Subcortex

Notes from: Coon, Dennis. Introduction to Psychology, Exploration and Application. St. Paul: West Publishing Company, 1989

The Subcortex

The Subcortex is located below the cerebral cortex and completely covered by it. It can be divided into three general areas: (1) Brainstem or hindbrain; (2) Midbrain; and (3) forebrain.

A person can loose large portions of the cerebrum and still survive. As a matter of fact, If damage is limited to the less crucial areas of the cortex, little visible change may take place. This is not so of the subcortex. The areas here are so basic to normal functioning that damage may endanger a person's life.

1. The Brainstem or Hindbrain. As the spinal cord enters the skull to join the brain, it widens into the brainstem, or hindbrain, consisting mainly of:

2. The Midbrain.

3. The Forebrain. Two of the most important parts of the body, like gemstones of nerve tissue, lie buried deep within the center of the brain: The thalamus and an area just below it called the hypothalamus are part of the forebrain.

The Limbic System. The hypothalamus, parts of the thalamus, and several structures buried within the cortex form the limbic system--a kind of "primitive core" of the brain. It has an unmistakable role in producing emotion and motivated behavior. Rage, fear, sexual response, and other instances of intense arousal can be obtained from various points in the limbic system. During evolution, the limbic system was the earliest layer of the forebrain to develop. In lower, relatively primitive animals, the limbic system helps organize the appropriate response to stimuli: feeding, fleeing, fighting, or reproduction. In humans, the link to emotion remains. However, some parts of the limbic system have taken on additional, higher-level functions.

A finding in psychobiology was that animals will learn to press a lever to deliver electrical stimulation to the limbic system as a reward. Many additional areas of the limbic system have been shown to act as reward, or "pleasure," pathways in the brain. Many are found in the hypothalamus, where they overlap with areas associated with drives such as thirst, sex, and hunger. Punishment, or "aversive," areas have also been found in the limbic system. When these areas are stimulated, animals show discomfort and will work to turn off the stimulation. Since a great deal of human and animal behavior is directed by seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, these discoveries continue to fascinate psychologists.

[Notes from: Coon, Dennis. Introduction to Psychology, Exploration and Application. St. Paul: West Publishing Company, 1989.]



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