Cingulate gyrus (brain): anatomy and functions

The cingulate gyrus, also known as the cingulate gyrus, convolution gyrus, The cingulum or gyrus cinguli is a very important part of the brain, because it plays an essential role of connection between the limbic system and the neocortex. The cingulate gyrus forms an arcuate convolution, close to the surface of the corpus callosum.

In simplistic terms, the cingulate turn is like a “stepped” structure, like a bridge, which greatly differentiates us from animals that have evolved differently from ours.

It connects the structures that assimilate us to other animals (the limbic system: remember the importance of the hippocampus and the amygdala) and those that give us the ability to plan, reason, abstract conceptual: higher cognitive functions located in the neocortex.

Cingulate rotation functions

The anterior cingulate region has important connections with the amygdala, hippocampus, septum, anterior hypothalamus, caudate and putamen, dorsomedial nucleus of the thalamus, inferior parietal lobe, lateral convexity and medial frontal lobes .

  • It plays a role of link between the volitive, cognitive, emotional and mnemonic aspects.
  • It is about modulating and processing the expression of subtle emotional nuances
  • It intervenes in the modulation of the voice (sadness, happiness).
  • It is responsible for learning emotional vocalization, which facilitates the formation of long-term bonds, especially affection between mother and child.
  • Its stimulation produces feelings of anxiety, pleasure and fear.
  • It is responsible for initiating behavior oriented towards motivational objectives significant for the subject.
  • The subcallosal region is responsible for regulating autonomic functions such as respiration and heart rate.
  • Participates in hand movements and other movements in difficult tasks, or involving recent memories, and spontaneous initiation of action.
  • It is activated in situations that require executive control, shared attention, conflict resolution, error detection, response monitoring, and the initiation and maintenance of appropriate responses.
  • It plays a fundamental role in the selective attention involved in correct resolution of the Stroop test and other motivation-guided attentional tasks. The function would be to monitor the conflict between the stimulus and the response to select the appropriate behavior.
  • It plays an important role related to motivation in the functioning of the pre-frontal cortex for the execution of voluntary actions.

Papez circuit

Papez (1929) stated that the communication between the hippocampus and the neocortex occurs reciprocally..

They are constantly connected by the cingulate gyrus, and would be realized in the following way: the hippocampal formation processes information from the cingulate gyrus and carries it to the mammary bodies of the hypothalamus (a through the fornix).

At the same time, the hypothalamus sends information to the cingulate gyrus via the anterior thalamic nipple-nucleus pathway and from there to the frontal cortex.

Conflict handling

Posner and others (2007) have argued that the anterior cingulate gyrus is part of an executive attentional network, which is responsible for regulating the processing of information from other sensory and emotional networks. This is important for performing a task, especially those that involve effort or those that are new (non-routine).

Some authors, such as Posner and Botvinick, propose the conflict surveillance hypothesis, which maintains that when conflict detection occurs in a task (as in the Stroop test), the anterior cingulate turn triggers a set of strategic adjustments in cognitive control and in response planning.

Its goal is to reduce conflict to the task and, next time, get it right. It is like a controlled, mechanized evaluation of results. If these are not satisfactory, the information is sent to other structures of the planning system (frontoparietal system and cerebellum) which are responsible for establishing action strategies and learning from error.

Mechanism of emotional control

According to Kandel (2000), the emotional state of humans is composed of physical sensations and concrete feelings, and they are regulated by different anatomical structures.

Concrete feelings are regulated by the cingulate cortex and orbitofrontal cortex, and emotional states (peripheral, autonomic, endocrine, and skeletal-motor responses) involve subcortical structures such as the amygdala, hypothalamus, and brainstem. For example, when we watch a horror movie and we are afraid, at the same time we see an increase in heart rate, the mouth becomes dry, the muscles tighten, etc.

The rostral anterior cingulate cortex can help inhibit the activity of the amygdala, resolving emotional conflicts. This phenomenon is called “top to bottom emotional”.. In patients with depression, there is an overactivation of the anterior cingulate cortex in the treatment of self-referential negative words. Specifically, there is a positive correlation between the amygdala, the median prefrontal cortex, and the rostral cingulate cortex between the processing of self-referential negative emotional information.

People with post-traumatic stress disorder show hypoactivity of the anterior rostral cingulate cortex when trying to evoke trauma and during re-experimentation. In addition, the severity of the symptoms of PTSD correlates with the hypoactivity of the anterior rostral cingulate cortex.

In people with anxiety, there is no suppression of the activity of the amygdala, which correlates negatively with the activity of the anterior rostral cingulate cortex. Changes in this activity will depend on the perceived threat, the degree of helplessness the person feels, and the anticipation of unwanted stimuli..

What happens if the cingulate gyrus is injured?

His injury causes various disorders and syndromes, such as mutism, imitation behaviors (ecopraxia) and compulsive use of objects.

Lesions of the anterior and medial coagulation regions generate exploratory, attentional or action motivation disorders. Injured patients present with hypokinesia, apathy, abulia without depression, lack of spontaneity, kinetic mutism, and a flattened emotional response.

Bilateral cingulate lesions generate sphincter incontinence, a tendency to distractibility, To docility and fable.

The most well-known alteration in cingulate gyrus injury is medial or anterior frontal cingulate syndrome, which is characterized by lack of initiative, akinesia or hypokinesia, apathy and mutism. There is a reduction in goal-oriented activities, patients show no interest or concern for anything (neither for their family, nor for themselves, nor for the future).

It should also be seen in moderate dependency syndrome, which results in loss of personal autonomy (leads to distraction, hyperresponsiveness, decreased motivation and apathy).

Bibliographical references:

  • Guyton, AC; Hall, JE. (2006). Medical physiology, Elsevier Saunders. 11th edition.
  • MacLean, PD (January 31, 1990). The Evolving Triune Brain: Role in Paleocerebral Functions. Springer Science & Business Media.
  • Pinel, J. (2004). Biopsychology. Madrid: Pearson Prentice Room.

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