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What Does The Hypothalamus Do In The Brain

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Causes And Risk Factors Of Hypothalamus Disorders

What are Hypothalamus and its Function? Dr.Berg

A physical injury to the head that impacts the hypothalamus is one of the most common causes of hypothalamic dysfunction. Others include surgery, brain injury, brain tumors or radiation treatment to the brain.

Less common causes can include nutrition problems such as eating disorders, blood vessel problems in the brain, certain genetic disorders or certain immune system diseases that lead to infection or inflammation in the brain.

Anatomy Of The Hypothalamus

The hypothalamus and pituitary gland are connected by both nervous and chemical pathways. The posterior portion of the hypothalamus, called the median eminence, contains the nerve endings of many neurosecretory cells, which run down through the infundibular stalk into the pituitary gland. Important structures adjacent to the median eminence of the hypothalamus include the mammillary bodies, the third ventricle, and the optic chiasm . Above the hypothalamus is the thalamus.

What Happens If The Hypothalamus Is Damaged

  • How to treat hypothalamic dysfunction?
  • Hypothalamus is the head of all endocrine glands. It coordinates the functions of all endocrine glands in the body. The endocrine glands secrete their hormones directly into the blood. The hypothalamus controls a variety of body functions and hormones. Damage to the hypothalamus, whether at birth or acquired, will lead to significant health issues. Such as:

    • Diabetes insipidus: A condition associated with passing large amounts of urine, but blood sugars are normal. A chemical called vasopressin is released from the hypothalamus. This vasopressin regulates the waterreabsorption in the kidneys. In the absence of vasopressin, the reabsorption process does not take place, thus inducing rapid water loss from the body.
    • Insomnia: A part of the hypothalamus sets our sleep-wake cycle.
    • Fluctuations in body temperature
    • Hypothalamic obesity: Damage to the hypothalamus can affect the centers of appetite regulation, which results in uninhibited eating disorders. Obesity can lead to various conditions like:

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    What Could Go Wrong With My Hypothalamus

    Hypothalamic function can be affected by head trauma, brain tumours, infection, surgery, radiation and significant weight loss. It can lead to disorders of energy balance and thermoregulation, disorganised body rhythms, and symptoms of pituitary deficiency due to loss of hypothalamic control. Pituitary deficiency ultimately causes a deficiency of hormones produced by the gonads, adrenal cortex and thyroid gland, as well as loss of growth hormone.

    Lack of anti-diuretic hormone production by the hypothalamus causes diabetes insipidus. In this condition the kidneys are unable to reabsorb water, which leads to excessive production of dilute urine and very large amounts of drinking.

    What Does My Hypothalamus Do


    One of the major functions of the hypothalamus is to maintain homeostasis, i.e. to keep the human body in a stable, constant condition.

    The hypothalamus responds to a variety of signals from the internal and external environment including body temperature, hunger, feelings of being full up after eating, blood pressure and levels of hormones in the circulation. It also responds to stress and controls our daily bodily rhythms such as the night-time secretion of melatonin from the pineal gland and the changes in cortisol and body temperature over a 24-hour period. The hypothalamus collects and combines this information and puts changes in place to correct any imbalances.

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    Extreme Body Temperature Changes

    The hypothalamus plays a critical role in stabilizing the bodys core temperature. For example, if the bodys temperature goes above 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the hypothalamus will cause the body to sweat until it cools down.

    However, when the hypothalamus becomes injured, it can no longer control your temperature. Therefore, you may experience frequent hot or cold flashes.

    A prolonged increase in core body temperature can lead to further brain damage. Thats why it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible.

    Factors That Influence These Transitions

    People generally require several minutes to calm down and relax enough to fall asleep, and the deepest stages of sleep typically occur 20 or more minutes after sleep onset. However, sleep onset and associated loss of consciousness can occur in an instant. This is particularly obvious in very tired people who can fall asleep at inconvenient and sometimes dangerous times, such as when driving a car. Similarly, waking up from sleep can occur very quickly, for example in response to an alarm clock, although it typically takes people much longer to become fully alert after awakening. There are many internal factors and environmental factors that influence the likelihood of falling asleep or waking up. For example, a powerful sleep drive builds up with prolonged wakefulness and shifts the balance toward sleep. How this occurs is not precisely known, but adenosine is one of the chemicals thought to accumulate during prolonged wakefulness. When it does, it serves to induce sleep by inhibiting wake-promoting neurons. Interestingly, caffeine inhibits the actions of adenosine and therefore helps maintain wakefulness.

    The SCN is the bodys master clock.

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    Manipulating The Control Center

    Understanding the importance of the intermittent release of GnRH from the hypothalamus led researchers to develop a type of medication that temporarily turns down your ovaries’ production of estrogen and progesterone. Maintaining a constant level of GnRH in your bloodstream turns down the pituitary release of FSH and LH which in turns shuts down ovarian production of estrogen and progesterone. This class of medications known as gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists includes leuprolide acetate or Lupron and goserelin acetate or Zoladex. These medications have an important role in treating several gynecologic conditions like uterine fibroids and endometriosis.

    Blood Supply Of The Hypothalamus

    What Does the Hypothalamus Do?

    Strokes of the hypothalamus are vanishingly rare, as the hypothalamus has the most luxuriant blood supply in the brain, befitting a site that is absolutely critical to maintain life. The hypothalamus is what the circle of Willis circles. It is literally surrounded by the internal carotid and basilar arteries, and the blood vessels that connect them.

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    Effects Of Hypothalamus Damage After Brain Injury

    Traumatic brain injury can cause direct injury to the hypothalamus. The anterior hypothalamus is particularly vulnerable to injury.

    In fact, according to studies, almost 60% of brain injuries result in hypothalamic problems.

    Despite this relatively high number, hypothalamus damage is often overlooked during brain injury treatment. Thats why its important to know the signs of hypothalamus injury so you can seek the correct form of treatment.

    The symptoms of hypothalamus damage after brain injury include:

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    The Role Of Genes And Neurotransmitters

    Chemical signals to sleep

    Clusters of sleep-promoting neurons in many parts of the brain become more active as we get ready for bed. Nerve-signaling chemicals called neurotransmitters can switch off or dampen the activity of cells that signal arousal or relaxation. GABA is associated with sleep, muscle relaxation, and sedation. Norepinephrine and orexin keep some parts of the brain active while we are awake. Other neurotransmitters that shape sleep and wakefulness include acetylcholine, histamine, adrenaline, cortisol, and serotonin.

    Genes and sleep

    Sleep studies

    Your health care provider may recommend a polysomnogram or other test to diagnose a sleep disorder. A polysomnogram typically involves spending the night at a sleep lab or sleep center. It records your breathing, oxygen levels, eye and limb movements, heart rate, and brain waves throughout the night. Your sleep is also video and audio recorded. The data can help a sleep specialist determine if you are reaching and proceeding properly through the various sleep stages. Results may be used to develop a treatment plan or determine if further tests are needed.

    Nuclei Of The Hypothalamus

    Hypothalamus: Function, hormones, and disorders

    As mentioned above, the hypothalamus actually consists of a collection of nuclei, each of which have their own functional roles in the brain. In this section, I will briefly discuss the main hypothalamic nuclei and summarize some of their functions. It’s important to note that this will not be a complete list of all of the nuclei in the hypothalamus, nor a thorough explanation of everything those nuclei are involved in . Also, some hypothalamic nuclei are subdivided into smaller nuclei I will not go into that level of detail in this section. Finally, it’s important to mention that the nuclei of the hypothalamus are paired structures, meaning there is one nucleus on either side of the midline of the hypothalamus. So, while below I will discuss individual nuclei such as the suprachiasmatic nucleus, this would be more accurately described as the suprachiasmatic nuclei because there are two of them.

    The anterior hypothalamus contains a region called the preoptic area, which contains several preoptic nuclei. Different nuclei of the preoptic area are involved in: the regulation of blood composition and volume , the regulation of body temperature, sleep regulation, and reproductive behavior. You can read more about the preoptic area in this article: Know Your Brain: Preoptic Area.

    The anterior nucleus is situated above the supraoptic nucleus it is best-known for its role in the regulation of body temperature.

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    Gray Matter And Dietary Self

    During these experiments, the participants looked at images of food items and were asked to place values on them according to tastiness and healthfulness. They were also asked to make a choice based on healthfulness.

    When they compared the imaging data against the choices, the scientists found that volume of gray matter in the dlPFC and the vmPFC was a good predictor of healthful choices.

    The findings revealed that people with more gray matter volume tended to show more self-control. They did this by either putting a higher value on healthfulness or a lower value on tastiness when asked to consider healthfulness.

    The researchers also found a similar relation between gray matter volume in the vmPFC and dlPFC and dietary self-control in another dataset with different subjects and a different kind of task that entailed distancing from cravings for unhealthy, appetitive foods.

    They say that their study is the first to show that differences in dlPFC and the vmPFC anatomy may influence peoples choice of healthful foods. However, the findings do not suggest that people have to accept these conditions as fixed.

    The brain has plasticity, which means that it can adapt. Gray matter volume is similar to muscle and can be developed with exercise.

    In the future, we may be able to come up with brain-based interventions, so that you can change the gray matter density in these regions.

    Prof. Hilke Plassmann

    Pituitary Gland Controls Growth

    The pituitary gland is very small only about the size of a pea! Its job is to produce and release hormones into your body. If your clothes from last year are too small, it’s because your pituitary gland released special hormones that made you grow. This gland is a big player in puberty too. This is the time when boys’ and girls’ bodies go through major changes as they slowly become men and women, all thanks to hormones released by the pituitary gland.

    This little gland also plays a role with lots of other hormones, like ones that control the amount of sugars and water in your body.

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    Blood Supply And Lymphatics

    The hypothalamus is supplied by the circle of Willis, which surrounds it inferiorly, the anteromedial branches of the anterior cerebral artery, the posteromedial branches of the posterior communicating artery, and the thalamoperforating branches of the posterior cerebral artery.

    Venous drainage is largely via the circle of intercavernous sinuses. The hypothalamo-neurohypophysial portal system is a capillary plexus that transmits the releasing hormones from the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus to the anterior pituitary.

    Astroglia podocytes form the blood-brain barrier by wrapping podocytes around capillaries. These cells protect the brain from toxins in the blood and facilitate nutrient transport to the neurons. Astroglia also forms a system of microscopic perivascular channels permeating the brain that transmit cerebrospinal fluid -like lymphatic vessels. The system enables CSF to clear metabolic waste and distribute glucose, amino acids, lipids, and neurotransmitters. This system is most active during sleep, contributing to its restoration function. Arterial pulsation drives glymphatic flow, suggesting that exercise may also enhance it. Aging, brain trauma, and ischemia decrease that CSF flow. Also, larger lymphatic vessels in the meninges help absorb interstitial fluid into the dural venous sinuses.

    What Does The Hypothalamus Do

    The Hypothalamus: Rapid Review
    • The portion of the brain that maintains the bodys internal balance .
    • The hypothalamus is the link between the endocrine and nervous systems.
    • The hypothalamus produces releasing and inhibiting hormones, which stop and start the production of other hormones throughout the body.

    The hypothalamus plays a significant role in the endocrine system. The function of the hypothalamus is to maintain your bodys internal balance, which is known as homeostasis. To do this, the hypothalamus helps stimulate or inhibit many of your bodys key processes, including:

    • Heart rate and blood pressure
    • Body temperature
    • Fluid and electrolyte balance, including thirst
    • Appetite and body weight
    • Glandular secretions of the stomach and intestines
    • Production of substances that influence the pituitary gland to release hormones
    • Sleep cycles

    SpineUniverse article about the nervous system

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    Stable Wakefulness And Stable Sleep

    In every 24-hour period, it is common for people to be continuously awake for about 16 hours and then almost continuously asleep for approximately 8 hours. A small number of brain cells are responsible for keeping us awake or asleepsome cells promote wakefulness and others promote sleep. The neurons that promote wakefulness inhibit those that promote sleep, and vice versa. This interaction normally leads to either a relatively stable period of wakefulness or a relatively stable period of sleep.

    What Is The Hypothalamus

    The hypothalamus is a region of the brain that is important for a balanced state in the body. Its major role is to ensure regulation of the bodys internal balance

    An unbalanced hypothalamus throws most other hormones out of balance. It affects the pituitary gland and adrenal gland, which then affects the endocrine and the nervous system.

    The endocrine system is a network of glands that secrete hormones to ensure the body functions properly. The hypothalamus is one of these glands and it essentially links the endocrine and the nervous system.

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    Your Hypothalamus And Your Menstrual Cycle

    The hypothalamus is an important part of your neuroendocrine system. It controls the interaction between your endocrine or hormone-producing system and certain parts of your nervous system. Your hypothalamus is responsible for producing the hormone that triggers the start of your menstrual cycle.

    Hypothalamus Regions And Function In The Body


    If the brain were a corporation, the hypothalamus would kind of be like the utilities department. While a lot of the credit and attention goes towards parts of the brain that communicate, create, and act, the hypothalamus is responsible for heating, water flow, and other basic things that keep the entire system running.

    The basic function of the hypothalamus can be summarized with the word homeostasis, which means keeping the internal state of the body as constant as possible. The hypothalamus keeps us from being too hot, too cold, overfed, underfed, too thirsty, and so on.

    While the hypothalamus is generally responsible for keeping us in a steady state, there are times that this state needs to change. When in an immediately life-threatening situation, you may not need to think about how hungry you are. The limbic system, which is intricately involved with emotion, communicates closely with the hypothalamus, resulting in the physical changes that are associated with particular feelings. The amygdala has reciprocal connections with the hypothalamus through at least two major pathways. Other regions of cortex, such as the orbitofrontal cortex, insula, anterior cingulate and temporal cortices, also communicate with the hypothalamus.

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    Hormones In Regulating The Bodys Homeostasis

    The hypothalamus plays a vital role in many body functions and your overall well-being.

    For example, it helps regulate the bodys temperature by causing shivering to produce heat and blocks sweat production to retain heat. It also helps the body during childbirth and regulates blood pressure and heart rate, thirst, sleep cycles, sex drive, and digestion.

    Each process needs certain hormones to work properly. Too little or too much of these hormones will cause an imbalance in the bodys internal functions. This may result in hypothalamus disorders that will require your doctors attention.

    The following primary hormones are produced by the hypothalamus with its important functions:

  • Corticotropin-releasing hormone responds to physical and emotional stress.
  • Anti-diuretic hormone is an important stress hormone. It triggers cortisol production, regulates water levels, and affects blood pressure and volume.
  • Thyrotropin-releasing hormone plays a role in brain development, muscle control, digestion, metabolism, and heart.
  • Growth Hormone-releasing hormone is involved in reproductive hormones is responsible for physical development in children and metabolism in adults.
  • Oxytocin controls important behaviors and emotions such as anxiety, sexual arousal, trust, recognition, and maternal behavior.
  • Somatostatin inhibits the release of certain hormones, including glucagon and insulin.
  • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone maintains reproductive function.
  • From Where Does The Hypothalamus Receive Information Where Does It Send It

    The hypothalamus has great different connections due to the brain area where its located. On one side, it receives information from other structures and then sends information to other parts of the brain .


    • Reticular cephalic flexure: From the cephalic flexure to the lateral mammillary nucleus.
    • Median prosencephalic fasciculus: from the olfactory region, septal nuclei and amygdala region to the preoptic lateral and lateral hypothalamus.
    • Stria terminalis: from the hippocampus to the septum and mammillary nucleus.
    • Precommissural fornix fibers: connect with the dorsal hypothalamic area, septal nuclei and preoptic lateral nucleus.
    • Postcommissural fornix fibers: takes the information to the medial mammillary nucleus.
    • Retinohypothalamic fibers: Take information from the amount of light in the retina and sends it to the suprachiasmatic nucleus for circadian rhythm regulation.
    • Cortical projections: receives information from the cerebral cortex and sends it to the hypothalamus.


    Questions? Leave a comment below

    This article was originally written in Spanish by David Asensio Benito, translated by Alejandra Salazar.

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