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Hypothalamus: Important Structure of the Nervous System

What is and location

The hypothalamus is a region of the mammalian brain, located below the thalamus and above the pituitary gland (in the central interior of the two cerebral hemispheres). It is a small part of the diencephalon and considered one of the most important structures of the central nervous system.

Main features

- It has small size (little larger than a bean).

- Formed by gray matter cells.

- It is connected with other structures of the human body such as the limbic system, thalamus, pituitary and prefrontal area.

Hypothalamus Functions

- Controls the autonomic nervous system of humans;

- It acts in the control of the temperature of the human body;

- Controls and regulates the processes of thirst and hunger;

- Acts in the control of emotions and behaviors (functions performed in conjunction with the limbic system);

- Acts in the process of muscle contraction (cardiac and smooth);

- It acts in the regulation of secretion of several glands that produce hormones;

- Acts in the control of various hormones by the pituitary gland;

- Acts in processes related to sexual desire;

- Regulates states of consciousness and circadian rhythms (waking and sleeping times).

Did you know?

The word hypothalamus derives from the Greek, and Hypo means "below". Therefore, the word refers to its location: below the thalamus.

Last reviewed: 01/02/2019

By Elaine Barbosa de Souza
Undergraduate student in Biological Sciences, Methodist University of São Paulo.