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An in-depth view of Hypothalamus

  • Posted on- Apr 30, 2015
  • 5371 Views

The hypothalamus is that part of the endocrine system which maintains the body’s internal balance (homeostasis). It is a crucial part of the brain which links the endocrine and nervous systems. In order to maintain body’s internal balance, hypothalamus inhibits many of the body’s processes including:

  • Body temperature 
  • Thirst, electrolyte balance and fluid 
  • Blood pressure and heart rate 
  • Body weight and appetite 
  • Secretions of the intestines and stomach 
  • Sleep cycles

Hormones of the Hypothalamus
Hypothalamus is situated below the thalamus (almond size) and is involved in pituitary gland function. When a signal is triggered from the nervous system, the gland secretes neurohormones that start and stop the production of pituitary hormones. Major hormones produced by the hypothalamus include:
  1. ADH (Anti-diuretic hormone): This vital hormone augments water absorption into the blood by the kidneys. 
  2. CRH (Corticotropin-releasing hormone): The role of CRH is to send a message to the anterior pituitary gland which stimulates the adrenal glands to release corticosteroids that help control metabolism and immune response. 
  3. GnRH (Gonadotropin-releasing hormone): GnRH directs the anterior pituitary gland to secrete FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone), both of which work in coordination to normal functioning of the ovaries and testes
  4. GHIH (growth hormone-inhibiting hormone) or GHRH (growth hormone-releasing hormone): Also known as somatostain, GHRH stimulates the anterior pituitary to release the growth hormone. This hormone is essential in children for maintaining a healthy body composition. It helps build healthy bone and muscle mass in adults. It also affects fat distribution. 
  5. Oxytocin: Oxytocin is responsible for a number of processes including orgasm, body temperature, trusting ability, release of breast milk and sleep cycles
  6. PIH (prolactin-inhibiting hormone) or PRH (prolactin-releasing hormone): PRH prompts the anterior pituitary gland to stimulate breast milk production through the production of prolactin. Contrary, PIH restraints prolactin affecting milk production.

Diseases associated with Hypothalamus
A physical injury to the head is one of the common causes of hypothalamic disease which may result in appetite and sleep disorders. It is hard to pinpoint the root cause of the disorder as hypothalamus affects so many different parts of the endocrine system. Since, hypothalamus and pituitary gland are connected very closely it becomes difficult for doctors to identify whether the condition is associated with the hypothalamus or pituitary gland. However, there are certain hormone tests which can determine on which part of the body is the root cause.

Undoubtedly, hypothalamus is the most essential organ of the endocrine system. By stimulating the pituitary gland to release hormones to the rest of the body, it ensures normal functioning of the body’s internal processes.

Treatment of hypothalamic disease
Endocrinologists suggest blood or urine tests, hormone injections, MRI or CT scan, visual field eye exam to identify the exact cause hypothalamic disease. Based on the cause, endocrinologists perform surgery or radiation for tumors and hormone therapy to replace missing hormones.