Weird Things You Didn't Know About the Hypothalamus
For most of us, it's difficult to imagine the complexity of our own human biology. In our day-to-day lives, we aren't conscious of the millions of cells working together in concert to let us do even the simplest tasks like eating, walking, or talking. And we're even less aware of what our body does that's beyond our direct volition.
This list celebrates just one of the many unsung heroic organs that make our body function, the hypothalamus. It's a tiny part of your brain that plays an enormous role in keeping the body running normally.Want to learn more hypothalamus facts? Continue reading to answer, what is the hypothalamus? and what does the hypothalamus do?
Interpreted Literally, the Word Means "Under Chamber"Photo: Violator1 / flickr / CC-BY-ND 2.0The word "hypothalamus" is derived from the two Greek words "hypo" and "thalamus." Literally the word would mean something like "under chamber." Fitting, since the hypothalamus rests below the thalamus, between the two hemispheres of the brain.
It's Nestled in the Center of Your BrainPhoto: Internet Archive Book Images / flickr / No known copyright restrictionsTo be a bit more specific, the hypothalamus lies near the center of the cranial cavity below the thalamus. Positioned along the front ends of the third ventricle, it is completely hidden by the overlaying cerebral hemisphere.
It's Made Up of a Bunch of Secreting NucleiPhoto: Bryan Jones / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0The hypothalamus itself is made of a group of nuclei contained in neural tissue. Each nuclei is responsible for specialized secretions that control certain aspects of the body. The nuclei are attached to neurons that transmit signals from the hypothalamus to the endocrine system.
It's Part of the DiencephalonPhoto: Internet Archive Book Images / flickr / No known copyright restrictionsNo, it's not a dinosaur. The diencaphalon is a collection of structures housed under the cerebral cortex, including the thalamus and the hypothalamus. These structures play a vital part in relaying neural information and controlling visceral or subconscious bodily functions.
In Humans, It's About the Size of an AlmondYou may now feel free to imagine an almond stuck inside your head. Though if you could be consciously aware of the whole array of structures and organs in your brain, that might be pretty disconcerting, too. But don't worry: if you don't find yourself noticing it, that means everything should be working normally.
It’s Different in Males and FemalesThe hypothalamus is subject to sexual dimorphism. In other words, it's an organ than has structural differences in males and females. Studies have shown that one particular hypothalamic nucleus (conveniently called the sexually dimorphic nucleus, or SDN) loses a greater number of cells but at a more advanced age in human females. The male SDN loses cells at earlier ages.