Copyright

Hypothalamus: Function, Role & Definition

Hypothalamus: Function, Role & Definition
Coming up next: Major Skeletal Muscle Functions

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 What Is a Hypothalamus?
  • 0:43 Features
  • 2:03 Role of the Hypothalamus
  • 3:45 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kimberly Carpenter

Kimberly has an undergraduate degree in Lab Sciences and a Master's degree in Education.

This lesson describes the hypothalamus as it relates to the endocrine system. It will examine the anatomic features of the hypothalamus and how it uses the pituitary gland to communicate with the rest of the body. A short quiz will follow.

What Is a Hypothalamus?

Every organization needs some form of structure in order for messages to be delivered and received. Without methods of communication, order can break down into chaos in a short matter of time. Just try to imagine how much work the employees of an office would be able to get done if they lost access to their phones and email!

In the case of the endocrine system, the hypothalamus plays a super-sized role by making decisions about what actions need to be taken by various endocrine glands throughout the body. Its primary purpose is to make sure that the body stays in a continual state of balance, known as homeostasis.

Features

The hypothalamus is only about the size of a pearl, and is located in the middle part of the brain. It monitors the state of the body through the circulatory and nervous systems, and effectively links these two systems to the endocrine system through the pituitary gland.

The hypothalamus communicates with the anterior portion of the pituitary gland by way of hormonal messages. Neurosecretory cells in the hypothalamus create hypothalamic-releasing and hypothalamic-inhibiting hormones, which tell the anterior pituitary to start or stop an action. Located in the pituitary stalk, a unique arrangement of capillaries and veins, called a portal system, allows the hypothalamic hormones to pass directly to the anterior pituitary without circulating through the body.

The hypothalamus uses the posterior portion of the pituitary gland like a warehouse and distribution center. Neurosecretory cells in the hypothalamus create anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) and oxytocin, which are sent through axons in the pituitary stalk to be stored in the posterior pituitary. When the hypothalamus detects that either of these hormones are needed, they are released from the posterior pituitary into the circulatory system to do their jobs.

Role of the Hypothalamus

A good way to visualize the relationship between the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland is like the President and his Chief of Staff. While the hypothalamus, or President, makes the decisions, the pituitary gland, or Chief of Staff, executes those decisions by sending out commands to the rest of the body.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support