Hypothalamus Functions

Written by Amy Hall
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The hypothalamus is located deep within the brain and it directly controls the pituitary gland. When the brain receives signals that changes in the body are needed, nerve cells within the hypothalamus secrete chemicals that travel to the pituitary gland. Once the pituitary gland receives this message, it then releases the necessary hormones to make corrections in the body.

The pituitary gland is one of the most important glands in the endocrine system. Although it is only the size of a pea, it serves a big purpose in the body, as it is responsible for secreting vital hormones into the bloodstream in correct amounts. The pituitary gland is often referred to as the "master gland" because its hormones control the functions of other glands in the endocrine system.

The Hypothalamus-Pituitary Connection

The hypothalamus functions primarily as a messenger to the pituitary gland. When one of these components is not working properly, the body can encounter numerous health problems. The posterior lobe of the pituitary gland is connected to the hypothalamus. There are two hormones that are actually produced in the hypothalamus, and they are Oxytocin and Vasopressin. Oxytocin stimulates contractions of muscles in the uterus during childbirth, and Vasopressin controls reabsorption of water by nephrons in the kidneys.

These two hormones are passed down to the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland where they are to be stored until needed by the body. It is possible to go into great detail about the hypothalamus and its functions, but for the point of this topic, it is important to know that it is closely linked to the pituitary gland. Without the hypothalamus, many vital hormones that our bodies need to function properly would not exist in sufficient amounts.


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