Brain Region of the Week: Hypothalamus

This week, we’re giving a shoutout to the hypothalamus. Did you know that it’s responsible for controlling your body temperature, hunger, thirst, sleep, AND your circadian rhythms? You do now! It’s a big job, but this brain region has got it covered.

Located just above your brain stem, the hypothalamus is primarily responsible for releasing hormones into your body – like oxytocin, which jumpstarts lactation, or vasopressin, which helps us urinate.

So many daily functions would be impossible without our hypothalamus – like eating. The hypothalamus controls our food intake, so lesions to this area can cause us to stop eating all together or to overeat to the point of obesity. If you’ve ever had a fever, you can blame your hypothalamus. It’s responsible for raising your body temperature in response to foreign bacteria.  And when it comes to sleep, the hypothalamus has got your back. It responds to how long the days are and to sunlight, which helps you keep your circadian rhythms balanced. Having your circadian rhythms in sync helps you sleep better and even avoid jet lag.

Since your hypothalamus is responsible for so many vital functions, damaging it can severely affect your quality of life. Those who suffer from anorexia or bulimia can damage their hypothalami, as can those who suffer from head trauma or tumors.

The hypothalamus might also malfunction by not releasing the right hormones, delaying puberty and growth in adolescents. Luckily, your doctor can test your hormone levels to find out – and you might be placed on hormone replacement therapy. And if you have a tumor affecting the hypothalamus, in most cases it can be treated with surgery or radiation.

For a part of your body that you’ve never seen, the hypothalamus has a very important job. And that’s why it’s our Brain Region of the Week.

Enjoyed this? Brush up on last week’s region, the hippocampus!

 Written by Roselyn Sebastian

Photo Credit: Hey Paul Studios via Compfight cc

This week, we’re giving a shoutout to the hypothalamus. Did you know that it’s responsible for controlling your body temperature, hunger, thirst, sleep, AND your circadian rhythms? You do now! It’s a big job, but this brain region has got it covered.

Located just above your brain stem, the hypothalamus is primarily responsible for releasing hormones into your body – like oxytocin, which jumpstarts lactation, or vasopressin, which helps us urinate.

So many daily functions would be impossible without our hypothalamus – like eating. The hypothalamus controls our food intake, so lesions to this area can cause us to stop eating all together or to overeat to the point of obesity. If you’ve ever had a fever, you can blame your hypothalamus. It’s responsible for raising your body temperature in response to foreign bacteria.  And when it comes to sleep, the hypothalamus has got your back. It responds to how long the days are and to sunlight, which helps you keep your circadian rhythms balanced. Having your circadian rhythms in sync helps you sleep better and even avoid jet lag.

Since your hypothalamus is responsible for so many vital functions, damaging it can severely affect your quality of life. Those who suffer from anorexia or bulimia can damage their hypothalami, as can those who suffer from head trauma or tumors.

The hypothalamus might also malfunction by not releasing the right hormones, delaying puberty and growth in adolescents. Luckily, your doctor can test your hormone levels to find out – and you might be placed on hormone replacement therapy. And if you have a tumor affecting the hypothalamus, in most cases it can be treated with surgery or radiation.

For a part of your body that you’ve never seen, the hypothalamus has a very important job. And that’s why it’s our Brain Region of the Week.

Enjoyed this? Brush up on last week’s region, the hippocampus!

 Written by Roselyn Sebastian

Photo Credit: Hey Paul Studios via Compfight cc

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