Physiology: Animal Function and Reproduction

Endocrine System

What is the hypothalamus, and why is it important to the endocrine and nervous systems?

The hypothalamus is a collection of structures that, as a group, are actually the bridge between the endocrine and nervous systems. For example, it is part of the nervous system when, in times of stress, it sends electrical signals to the adrenal gland to release adrenaline. Then it acts like a nerve when it secretes what are called gonadotropic-releasing hormones from neurosecretory cells (GnRH), thus stimulating the anterior pituitary gland, causing the secretion of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH; stimulates gonads to produce sperm and ova) and luteinizing hormone (LH; stimulates ovaries and testes). It also acts like an endocrine gland when it produces oxytocin and antidiuretic hormones that it stores in the posterior pituitary gland. Finally, the hypothalamus is actually the place that contains the body’s temperature control and the centers that regulate hunger and thirst.


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