hypothalamus, brain

The Hypothalamus

The hypothalamus is a structure in our brain that is responsible for releasing and inhibiting hormones and making sure our body remains in a healthy balanced state, which is called homeostasis. It plays an important role in the endocrine system. The hypothalamus receives messages from multiple areas of the brain and sends a signal to release or inhibit hormones to a structure in our brain called the pituitary gland, known as our “master gland.” The pituitary gland then directs the functions of our thyroid gland, adrenal gland, and reproductive organs in our endocrine system to maintain homeostasis, influence growth, and milk production. It is significantly involved in non-endocrine functions such as regulating our body temperature, controlling our appetite, and regulating our autonomic nervous system (ANS). Our ANS is a system in our body that controls involuntary functions in our body such as our breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, respiratory rate, and our sexual arousal. 

The hypothalamus can be divided into three parts. The front portion of the hypothalamus is responsible for our body’s circadian rhythm and regulating our body temperature. The middle section regulates our blood pressure, heart rate, satiety (feeling full), and stimulating the digestive system. The back portion plays a role in sleeping, blood pressure, feeding, our energy levels, arousal, memory, and learning. Below are a list of hormones and their functions: 

Hormone  Function 
Thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) 

  • Activates the thyroid 
  • Controls our body’s: metabolism, temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, energy level, and control how our muscles contract 
Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) 

  • Causes pituitary gland to secrete two important reproductive hormones: 
  • Luteinizing hormone (LH) 
  • Follicle-stimulating (FSH)  
  • In males, these hormones cause testicles to produce testosterone 


  • In females, these hormones cause ovaries to produce estrogen and progesterone 
Growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) 
  • Sent out to every tissue in the body to control metabolism and growth 
Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) 
  • Responsible for mediating our body’s response to stress 
  • Suppresses appetite, short-term anxiety, and increasing our attention 
  • Uncontrolled high levels of CRH  have been associated with clinical depression and, anxiety, or sleep related problems 
  • Inhibits hormones across multiple body systems 
  • To balance the hormones in the body 
  • Stops the rapid reproduction of cells (e.g., cancer) 
  • Helps regulate our body movements 
  • Known as motor control 
  • Produces feelings pleasure and euphoria  
  • Motivation 
  • Feelings of reward 
  • Cognitive functions (e.g., learning, memory, decision making) 
  • Sexual and maternal behaviors 



Retrieved from: https://health.howstuffworks.com/human-body/systems/nervous-system/hypothalamus.htm 

Symptoms will vary from person to person, but damage to the hypothalamus can result in the following: 

Impairment  Strategies 

(Overall strategies includes eating nutritious meals and avoiding foods that increase inflammation) 

Mood (Irritability and anxiety)  Practice coping strategies 

  • Taking the first 5 or 10 minutes of day meditating 
  • Youtube videos has many videos 
  • Engaging in yoga or exercising 
  • Practice deep breathing strategies throughout your day 
  • There are many methods, find a method that suits you best 
  • Engaging in your favorite activities to help with flow (losing track of time) or being distracted 
  • Examples: adult coloring books, hiking, dancing 
  • Journal each morning or night and write about your day, express your thoughts, or practice thinking of 3 things you are grateful for 
  • Write down a mantra that you can always read during stressful or anxious times 
  • Utilize fidget or stress relieving items  
  • Utilizing weighted blankets 
Fatigue (tiredness) 
  • Make sure you receive a good night’s rest 
  • Wake up at the same time and day every day, even on weekends 
  • Try essential oils 
  • For example, peppermint or eucalyptus  
  • Do not overbook yourself with activities 
  • It is okay to tell others no 
  • Take rest breaks as needed throughout your day 
  • Eating a nutritious balanced diet 
Difficulty Sleeping 
  • Make sure you receive a good night’s rest 
  • Wake up at the same time and day every day, even on weekends 
  • Make sure you do not have a heavy meal a few hours before bed 
  • Use blue light glasses while using phone or computer at night 
  • Aroma therapy (Lavender oils) 
  • Refraining from technology use once lying in bed 
  • Using a sleep diary (can be printed online) to track sleeping patterns 
  • Limit caffeine intake 
  • Decaf coffee (note: decaf still has caffeine) 
  • Teas with NO caffeine 
  • Chamomile tea with lavender 
Decreased Sex Drive 
  • Finding ways to conserve energy during sexual activity 
  • For example, your positioning 
  • Meditating or engaging in self care to relieve stress or anxiety that could affect low sex drive 
  • Getting a good night’s sleep every night 
  • Eating a healthy diet and decreasing alcohol intake 
  • Engaging in activities to increase your self esteem 
  • exercising 
  • Seeking a counselor might be helpful with your partner and by yourself as well 
Heat Sensitivity 
  • Staying in cool, air conditioned environments 
  • Using cooling vests 
  • Wearing light clothing and clothing materials (e.g., 100% cotton clothing) 
  • Keep a water bottle with you 
  • Drink fluids often 
Rapid Weight Gain 
  • Can be from an increase in hunger 
  • Contact doctor to check hormones 
  • Keep a journal to monitor how often you are eating 
  • Maintain a schedule for your meals 
  • Choose foods that are filling (e.g., low fat protein) 
  • Eat smaller portions and snacks throughout the day rather than eating large meals 
  • Change the environment at home 
  • Remove tempting snacks 
  • Exercise! Try walking for 30 minutes a day 
Constant Thirst 
  • Always carry a water bottle with you  
  • Too much water can be unhealthy 
  • Use a large water bottle so keep track of how much water you are drinking 
  • Water intake varies from person to person depending on their weight 
  • Contact your doctor, diarrhea leads to dehydration 
  • Drink pedialyte for electrolytes (water is not sufficient enough) 
  • Other fluids includes chicken broth, juice, water, and sprite 
  • Incontinence pads 
  • Avoid dairy products 
  • Consume light foods such as toast or crackers 




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Clayton, A. H., Kingsberg, S. A., Goldstein, I. (2018) Evaluation and Management of Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder. Sexual Medicine, 6(2): 59–74. 

Fröhlich, E., & Wahl, R. (2018). The forgotten effects of thyrotropin-releasing hormone:  Metabolic functions and medical applications. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology 52(2019), 29–43. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091302218300384. 

Kalat, J. W. (2017). Biological Psychology. Cengage 

Klein, M. O., Battagello, D. S., Cardoso, A. R., Hauser, D. N., Bittencourt, J. C., & Correa, R. G.  (2019). Dopamine: functions, signaling, and association with neurological diseases.  

Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology39(1), 31–59. https://doi-org.westcoastuniversity.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s10571-018-0632-3 

O’Toole, T.J., & Sharma S. (2020). Physiology, somatostatin. StatPearls Publishing https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538327/ 

Shahid, Z., Asuka, E., & Singh, E. (2020). Physiology, hypothalamus. StatPearls Publishing https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK535380/ 

Xie, Y., & Dorsky, R. I. (2017). Development of the hypothalamus: conservation, modification  and innovation. Development (Cambridge, England)144(9), 1588–1599.  


Waxenbaum, J.A., Reddy, V., & Varacallo M.  (2020). Anatomy, autonomic nervous system. StatPearls Publishinghttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539845/ 

For more TBI Glossary Terms, click here.

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