The brain acts as a complex system, many parts interacting with one another to create synchronized output. This is especially true when it comes to the lateral hypothalamus. This brain region can be viewed as the central processor responsible for controlling wakefulness connected to many other brain regions.

Symptoms of Lateral Hypothalamus Problems

  • Fatigue
  • Decreased appetite
  • Decreased motivation
  • Feeling cold
  • Slow intestinal transit/motility, often with resulting SIBO
  • Bloating
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Pain
  • Slowed metabolism (often manifested by lower T3, being cold, eating less)

Hypothalamus Connections

The orexin neurons from the lateral hypothalamus connect to the entirety of the remainder of the hypothalamus, including the:

  • tuberomammillary nucleus (responsible for wakefulness)
  • arcuate nucleus (responsible for weight balance)
  • paraventricular nucleus (regulates the HPA axis)
  • ventral tegmental area dopamine nucleus (regulates pleasure and motivation)
  • locus coeruleus (responsible for wakefulness), the serotonergic raphe nuclei (important for circadian rhythms), the cholinergic pedunculopontine nucleus (regulates attention and wakefulness), prefrontal cortex (important for analytical thinking), various brain stem (consciousness), area postrema (responsible for vomiting/nausea), and the dorsal nucleus of the vagus nerve

Lateral Hypothalamus Functions

The lateral hypothalamus controls many of the same functions as orexin:

  • Wakefulness (increases)
  • Appetite (increases)
  • Motivation (increases)
  • Body Warmth (increases)
  • Gut flow by way of the vagus nerve (increases)
  • Reducing pain
  • Metabolism (increases)
  • Blood pressure (increases)

Narcolepsy is associated with a reduction in the number of orexin neurons in the lateral hypothalamus and very low orexin peptides in cerebrospinal fluid.

You can also note that the cannabinoid system and the orexin system mediate many of the same cognitive and physical effects. There’s also a significant overlap in their function and location [1].

Neurochemicals of the Lateral Hypothalamus

  • Orexin A
  • Orexin B
  • Glutamate
  • Cannabinoid (i.e. anandamide)

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