Definition: The ventral and medial regions of the diencephalon forming the walls of approximately the ventral half of the third ventricle; it is delineated from the thalamus by the hypothalamic sulcus, lying medial to the internal capsule and subthalamus, continuous with the precommissural septum anteriorly and with the mesencephalic tegmentum and central gray substance posteriorly. Its ventral surface is marked by (from rostral to caudal) the optic chiasma, the unpaired infundibulum that extends by way of the infundibular stalk into the posterior lobe of the hypophysis, and the paired mammillary bodies. The hypothalamus consists of the anterior hypothalamic area [TA], dorsal hypothalamic area [TA], intermediate hypothalamic area [TA], lateral hypothalamic area [TA], and posterior hypothalamic area [TA], each of these containing specific nuclei. It has afferent fiber connections with the mesencephalon, limbic system, cerebellum, and efferent fiber connections with the same structures and with the posterior lobe of the hypophysis; its functional connection with the anterior lobe of the hypophysis is established by the hypothalamohypophysial portal system. The hypothalamus is prominently involved in the functions of the autonomic (visceral motor) nervous system and, through its vascular link with the anterior lobe of the hypophysis, in endocrine mechanisms; it also appears to play a role in neural mechanisms underlying moods and motivational states.
[hypo- + thalamus]
See Also: pituitary gland
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