Diencephalon: Definition, Location & Function

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  • 0:00 Importance of the Diencephalon
  • 0:22 What, Where and How Big?
  • 1:07 Thalamus and…
  • 2:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ashli Wilson

Ashli has a Master's Degree in Biology and has taught biology at different grade levels including college, elementary, and middle school.

The diencephalon is a part of the brain that is responsible for many functions in the human body. In this lesson, you will learn about the diencephalon, including its location, parts, and functions.

Importance of the Diencephalon

What do blood pressure, water balance, childbirth, appetite, and sleep all have in common? Besides the fact that all are bodily functions, each is controlled in part by the diencephalon. The diencephalon helps control many different functions of the body, which is why it is important to understand this organ.

What, Where and How Big is the Diencephalon?

The diencephalon is a part of the brain that includes the thalamus and the hypothalamus. It is the link between the nervous system and the endocrine system. The diencephalon receives signals from the nerves (the nervous system) and interprets the signals, then the pituitary gland (which largely controls the endocrine system) responds by excreting hormones.

The thalamus is the size of a walnut, whereas the hypothalamus is the size of an almond; in total, the size of the diencephalon is about the size of an apricot. The diencephalon is located deep in the brain underneath the cerebrum and above the pituitary gland.

Now that we know the general function, size, and location of the diencephalon, let's discuss the specific functions of the thalamus and hypothalamus.

Function of the Thalamus and Hypothalamus

The thalamus sends and receives signals to and from the brain and body. The brain sends a signal to the thalamus, which relays the signal to the body. Similarly, the body sends a signal to the thalamus, and the thalamus relays the signal to the brain. You can think of the thalamus as a mediator; it receives messages then sends the messages to the intended destination.

The hypothalamus is responsible for triggering the pituitary gland to release hormones. In conjunction with the pituitary gland, it regulates bodily functions and has many effects. Let's examine five important functions affected by the hypothalamus.

1. Sleep inhibition: When you feel awake, it is in part due to the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus sends signals to other parts of the brain to keep you alert.

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