Your hypothalamus is part of your endocrine system that’s located above the brain stem and below the thalamus. Despite its small size (about that of an almond), it regulates and coordinates numerous factors that are vital for your survival, as well as that of the species. Generally, the primary functions by which your hypothalamus does this are maintaining homeostasis, preparing you to respond to personal safety threats and supporting reproduction.
There’s essentially three ways your hypothalamus is involved in keeping you and our species alive; controlling the internal environment, preparing a response to external events and opportunistic positioning. Following are blurbs of information to help understand the importance of each one.
Your physical survival is sustained through a variety of chemical reactions and neuron activities. There are internal factors that help optimize these activities, such as body temperature, blood pressure, electrolytes, fluid and source of energy.
When you are faced with an external threat or opportunity to mate, physiological changes occur to prepare your body for “fight or flight” response or reproductive behavior. Some of these preparatory changes include increasing your body’s temperature and blood pressure, shutting down your digestive process, and releasing cortisol and adrenaline.
Finally, your circadian rhythms ensures you are awake during the day. Daylight provides the best opportunity to forage for food, drink or a reproductive mate.
It’s your hypothalamus that monitors and initiates the physiological adjustments when needed. Neural and chemicals signals are the modes by which information is received and responded to when necessary. And your autonomic nervous system and pituitary gland are key body parts involved.
When monitoring indicates a problem, your hypothalamus fixes it via neural signals to the autonomic system and releasing hormones. Hormones released by your hypothalamus include:
- thyrotropin-releasing hormone
- corticotropin-releasing hormone
- gonadotropin-releasing hormone
- growth hormone-releasing hormone
The effect of some of these stimulate or inhibit the release of other hormones.