Hypothalamus: what it is and what it is used for

Who I am
Marie-Ange Demory
Author and references
Source: Shutterstock

Hypothalamus: characteristics and functions

L'hypothalamus it is a part of the brain that plays a vital role in controlling many bodily functions, including the release of hormones from pituitary gland (pituitary gland). Let's see in detail where the hypothalamus is located, what functions it performs and what hormones it produces.

In this article

  • What is the hypothalamus? 
  • What does the hypothalamus do? 
  • What hormones does the hypothalamus produce?
  • What happens if the hypothalamus isn't functioning properly?
Read also: Pituitary or pituitary gland: what it is and what it is used for

What is the hypothalamus?

L'hypothalamus is an important structure of the brain that takes place just below the thalamus and that directs the activity of the pituitary gland, an endocrine gland fundamental to the life and well-being of the human being. The hypothalamus takes part in the maintenance of body homeostasis, through the regulation of body temperature or the sense of satiety, and in the release of hormones intended to involve the pituitary gland. The hypothalamus therefore constitutes the anatomical element of connection between the nervous system and the endocrine system.

Hypothalamus: origin of the name

The term "hypothalamus"literally means"under the thalamus"and wants to be a clear reference to the position occupied, in the brain, by the organ to which it refers (" ipo- "is the prefix used to express the concept of" under "or, more generally, of an" inferiority " ).

Read also: How to prevent thyroid disorders

What does the hypothalamus do?

One of the main functions of the hypothalamus is maintain homeostasis, that is, to keep the human body in a stable and constant condition.
The hypothalamus responds to a variety of signals from the internal and external environment including body temperature, hunger, feeling full after eating, blood pressure and hormone levels in the blood circulation.
It also responds to stress and controls our daily body rhythms such as the nocturnal secretion of melatonin from the pineal gland and changes in cortisol (the stress hormone) and body temperature over 24 hours. The hypothalamus collects and combines this information and makes changes to correct any imbalances.

Where exactly does the hypothalamus reside?

Located at the base of the skull, where the ventral portion of the diencephalon extends, the hypothalamus takes place below and just ahead of the thalamus, and above the posterior pituitary gland, to which it is connected through the aforementioned infundibulum of the pituitary gland.

Read also: Female infertility, when the problem is the thyroid

What hormones does the hypothalamus produce?

There are two sets of nerve cells in the hypothalamus that produce hormones.

  1. One set sends the hormones produced through the pituitary stalk to the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland, where these hormones are released directly into the bloodstream. These hormones are antidiuretic hormone and oxytocin. The antidiuretic hormone causes water reabsorption in the kidneys and oxytocin stimulates the contraction of the uterus during childbirth and is important during breastfeeding.
  2. The other group of nerve cells produces stimulating and inhibitory hormones which reach the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland through a network of blood vessels that descend through the pituitary stalk. These regulate the production of hormones that control the gonads, thyroid and adrenal cortex, as well as the production ofgrowth hormone, which regulates growth, and of the prolactin, essential for milk production. The hormones produced in the hypothalamus are the corticotropin-releasing hormone, la dopamine, the growth hormone releasing hormone, the somatostatin, gonadotropin releasing hormone and thyrotropin releasing hormone.
Read also: Oxytocin: what it is and what it is used for

What happens if the hypothalamus isn't functioning properly?

Hypothalamic function can be affected by head trauma, brain tumors, infections, surgery, radiation, and significant weight loss.
This can lead to disturbances of energy balance and thermoregulation, disorganized body rhythms, (insomnia) and symptoms of pituitary deficiency due to loss of hypothalamic control. Pituitary deficiency (hypopituitarism) ultimately causes a deficiency of hormones produced by the gonads, adrenal cortex and thyroid gland, as well as loss of growth hormone.
Lack of antidiuretic hormone production by the hypothalamus causes the diabetes insipidus. In this condition the kidneys are unable to reabsorb water, and the urine is very abundant and diluted.

Source for this article

You and your hormones: Hypothalamus

Read also: Pregnancy hormones: what they are and how they work

Questions and answers

Where is the hypothalamus located?

The hypothalamus is located at the base of the skull, below and slightly ahead of the thalamus and above the posterior pituitary.

How is the hypothalamus divided?

The hypothalamus can be divided into 3 regions: the anterior region, the median region and the posterior region; each of these regions includes specific nerve nuclei within it.

What is the limbic system?

The limbic system is a set of brain structures, which play a key role in emotional reactions, short-term memory processes, behavior and smell. 

  • pregnancy hormones
  • hormonal changes
add a comment of Hypothalamus: what it is and what it is used for
Comment sent successfully! We will review it in the next few hours.