Acting as a sort of fulcrum between our emotional limbic system and the logical prefrontal cortex is an area of our brain known as the anterior cingulate. It has been called the heart of our brain because when our thoughts, actions, and worldview are fixed on love and loving relationships, this part of the brain is strengthened and activated.[i] Through it we are wired for love and connection. Its unique cells called von Economo neurons are extensive and guide us to positive emotions. Prolonged anger and anxiety will impair the function of the anterior cingulate.
The ACC also plays a major part in the process of emotions. It helps us process God as kind and loving. It regulates spiritual anxiety, guilt, anger, and fear. It helps in our understanding of empathy and compassion. It is sometimes called the “heart” of the brain. Self-discipline and acts of love will strengthen the ACC. Intense and prolonged fear or addictions will weaken it. It plays a large role in listening to the brain’s circuitry toward the fear response or to choose the governance of the prefrontal cortex’s inhibition of the limbic system. It is a mediator between our feelings and our thoughts.
Belief in a cold, harsh, and distant God produces in us fear and aggression. To believe in a cold and critical God activates the limbic system and particularly the amygdala. If we believe in a cold and distant God then fear and despair will be our reality.
A stronger ACC will help slow down the amygdala’s role in the fear response. A stronger ACC will help us find love and connection.
[i] Timothy Jennings, The God Shaped Brain, (Illinois: IVP Books, 2014), 38.