Anatomy Of An Emotion. Multiple Sclerosis Style!

Do you have mood swings, incredible lows and incredible highs? Is MS… messing with how and what you feel? First, let me tell you how emotions are born.

Inside the human brain there are a few parts that are responsible for the emotional response.

The limbic system, also called the “emotional brain”, is one of the first areas that develop. It is the main part of the brain responsible for processing emotions. It’s function is yet very primitive. It can differentiate between levels of danger - less / more / very dangerous - and it reacts to fear stimuli. The amygdala is one of its components, and is the part that assesses the emotional value of the stimuli.

The area between the front and middle of the brain has a huge concentration of dopamine receptors that make you feel pleasure and be happy about your life.

The hypothalamus regulates your emotional response and the hypocampus turns your short-term memories into long-term ones, helping you retrieve stored information. Your memories let you know how you react to the world around you, including what type of emotional response you are having.

The two brain hemispheres also keep your emotions in check.

Right versus Left
The right side is responsible for abstract ways of thinking, symbolism, gestures and for the identification of especially negative emotions such as fear, anger and danger. It is more impressionable. It is the creative and sensitive part of the brain.

The left side deals with concrete ways of doing things, literal meaning of words and mathematical calculus. It is the scientifical and objective part of the brain. It also interprets emotions and the logical way to react to them.

Without the left hemisphere, the right one would be overcomed with negative emotions and would not know how to cope or respond to them. The other way round, without the right, your left hemisphere would not be able to identify negative emotions.

Memories drive and inform emotions
The reason why you remember things is to know how to react in a similar situation. Your brain has already analized what happens in a certain context and gives you the information needed to face the present one. Memories of previous experiences dictate the intensity of the current emotion.

For example, if your past experience with needles was a scary one, and you interpreted it as something that is harming you, the next time you have to have an injection, you’ll possibly experiment the same emotional reaction. 

The right brain identifies the stimuli and identifies the type of reaction: fear. You get tense, begin to sweat and / or talk to much. The left brain comes in and it logically asseses the situation, it sees that there is no iminent danger, you calm down and the injection goes smoothly.

Ways that MS influences emotion.
In MS, injury to the brain happens randomly. Because there are so many brain parts that process different emotions in different ways, the place where you have a new or old lesion, can potentially change your mood and emotional response to reality.

MSers are known to have mood swings, incontrollable laughing or crying outbursts, to get angry faster and to get deeply frustrated on things that normally wouldn’t cause such a reaction.

In newly diagnosed people, fear, anger and emotion may happen frequently, as the frustration of living with a chronic disease takes its toll on their capacity to cope.

Emotional symptoms and manifestations in MS are a large topic. We’ve only scratched the surface of this issue with today’s article. Most likely there will be a series on the topic.

Untill then, smile and keep making the SMart Choice for your MS Lifestyle!

Last, but not least, I would like to thank Positive Living With MS for inspiring me to write this article. You are such a wonderful and positive person. Thank you!


P.S. Question: How are you managing emotional symptoms on a daily basis and how are they affecting you on a personal level? Leave a comment down below. Thank you for reading!

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