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What Is the Hypothalamus Gland?

The hypothalamus gland is responsible for body temperature and hormone secretion.
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  • Written By: Lee Johnson
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 31 March 2014
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The hypothalamus gland is a part of the brain that handles many key functions, such as the regulation of body temperature and hormone secretion. The hypothalamus is directly responsible for controlling thirst, sex drive, hunger and sleep. It also controls many of the hormones that are released by the pituitary gland, which is located directly underneath it in the brain. The hypothalamus gland is located in the lower central portion of the brain, behind the eyes.

This gland is cone-shaped and made up of connected neurons, as are most other parts of the brain. It is part of the endocrine system, which is the system of hormone-secreting glands, such as the thyroid, pineal and adrenal glands. These glands are responsible for the distribution of hormones throughout the body. Hormones are chemicals designed to transmit messages between different systems of the body.

As a result of its proximity with the gland, the hypothalamus frequently communicates with the pituitary gland. The infundibular stalk connects the two, extending from the lower end of the hypothalamus gland to the pituitary. The hypothalamus sends hormones to the pituitary, which instructs it to either increase or decrease its output of hormones. This connection between the hypothalamus and pituitary gland is a key factor in many physiological processes in the body, such as the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis, the body’s chemical response to stress.

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Inside the hypothalamus gland are many neurosecretory cells, which are needed for communication between the brain’s neurons. The communication process is called neurotransmission. The hypothalamus gland releases many neurotransmitters that meet with the transmitters from other glands in “synapses,” and from this basic communication, they control many vital bodily processes.

The main role of the hypothalamus gland is homeostasis. This is simply the maintenance of the body’s status quo with regards to many factors, such as blood pressure and electrolyte balance. The hypothalamus handles the majority of the key automatic processes in the brain, and it even has a part to play with regard to mood. The hypothalamus also is responsible for linking the nervous system to the endocrine system.

The hypothalamus gland is close to the optic chasm, which is responsible for vision. As a result of this proximity, any tumors near or any inflammation of the hypothalamus gland can cause severe visual problems and possibly even blindness. The hypothalamus gland is absolutely central to the functioning of the brain and can be thought of as a major processing center in the human body.

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