Research Topic

Limbic-brainstem roles in perception, cognition, emotion and behavior

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Converging and extensive evidence suggests that the limbic-brainstem regions receive direct perceptual information bypassing early sensory cortical systems and play a central role in innate behaviors, including motivated and avoidance behaviors. Recent studies in human patients with cortical blindness as well ...

Converging and extensive evidence suggests that the limbic-brainstem regions receive direct perceptual information bypassing early sensory cortical systems and play a central role in innate behaviors, including motivated and avoidance behaviors. Recent studies in human patients with cortical blindness as well as in healthy participants suggest that these subcortical sensory pathways are functional in the intact human brain and interact with more evolutionary recent cortical systems. Phylogenetic continuity also indicates that such subcortical systems present in human and non-human primates might be present in other species, whereby they underlie similar functions. For example, birds seem to have similar subcortical neural circuits to those involved in facial recognition in humans. These studies provided substantial evidence for a rapid, low-spatial-frequency (LSF), subcortical sensory systems including the superior colliculus, pulvinar and amygdala.

Furthermore, the brain is composed by several hierarchical systems from the higher cortical systems to the lower brainstem, and these systems are intimately interconnected. Therefore, brainstem lesions could affect higher functions in the cortical areas and breakdown object recognition, attention, personality, learning and memory, social cognition, consciousness, etc. Taken together, these findings suggest that dysfunction in the limbic-brainstem regions is associated with various psychiatric disorders with higher cognitive deficits including autism, schizophrenia, face blindness (prosopagnosia), attention deficits, hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), neurosis, phobia, etc.

The aim of this research topic is to present up-to-date advancements on this area and to highlight the functions of the limbic-brainstem regions in a variety of perceptual, cognitive, affective and behavioral domains. To facilitate interdisciplinary discussion across species, methods and domains, we will welcome and actively seek for submissions encompassing behavioral, neurophysiological, and neuroanatomical studies, from amphibian to non-human primates, as well as clinical and system neuroscience studies in humans. Submission of original studies as well as review and opinion papers on this topic will be encouraged. Attention will be paid to present alternative perspectives in order to foster fruitful and constructive discussions on these hotly debated issues.


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