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Lateral Hypothalamus (Limbic System) Definition & Function

Written by Joe Cohen, BS | Last updated:
Medically reviewed by
SelfDecode Science Team | Written by Joe Cohen, BS | Last updated:

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. According to some scientists, this brain region can be viewed as the central processor responsible for controlling wakefulness, with connections to many other brain regions.

Disclaimer: This post focuses on the neuroscience of the lateral hypothalamus. It is solely informational. Talk to your healthcare provider if you experience any neurological symptoms.

Potential Symptoms of Lateral Hypothalamus Problems

Lateral hypothalamic problems can cause different symptoms that depend on the affected area, the types of hormones involved, and other health conditions.

Some possible symptoms that may signal a hypothalamus problem include:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased appetite
  • Decreased motivation
  • Feeling cold
  • Slow intestinal transit/motility (and possibly SIBO)
  • Bloating
  • Pain
  • Slowed metabolism (potentially with lower T3 and being cold)

See your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.

This list is not exhaustive; other symptoms are possible. On the other hand, these symptoms are not specific and may have many underlying causes.

Your doctor should diagnose and treat the underlying cause of your symptoms. In some cases, he or she may recommend scheduling an appointment with a neurologist who is qualified to do detailed brain function assessments.

Hypothalamus Connections

Scientists believe that orexin neurons from the lateral hypothalamus connect to the remainder of the hypothalamus, including the [1+]:

  • 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)
  • serotonergic raphe nuclei (important for circadian rhythms)
  • cholinergic pedunculopontine nucleus (regulates attention and wakefulness)
  • prefrontal cortex (important for analytical thinking)
  • various brain stem regions (consciousness)
  • area postrema (responsible for vomiting/nausea)
  • dorsal nucleus of the vagus nerve

Lateral Hypothalamus Functions

Research has implicated the lateral hypothalamus in many of the same functions as orexin [2+]:

  • Wakefulness (increases)
  • Appetite (increases)
  • Motivation (increases)
  • Body Warmth (increases)
  • Gut flow by way of the vagus nerve (increases)
  • Pain (decreases)
  • 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.

Ongoing studies suggest that the cannabinoid system and the orexin system might mediate many of the same cognitive and physical effects. There’s also a significant overlap in their function and location, but further research is needed [3].

Proposed Neurochemicals of the Lateral Hypothalamus

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

About the Author

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen flipped the script on conventional and alternative medicine…and it worked. Growing up, he suffered from inflammation, brain fog, fatigue, digestive problems, insomnia, anxiety, and other issues that were poorly understood in traditional healthcare. Frustrated by the lack of good information and tools, Joe decided to embark on a learning journey to decode his DNA and track his biomarkers in search of better health. Through this personalized approach, he discovered his genetic weaknesses and was able to optimize his health 10X better than he ever thought was possible. Based on his own health success, he went on to found SelfDecode, the world’s first direct-to-consumer DNA analyzer & precision health tool that utilizes AI-driven polygenic risk scoring to produce accurate insights and health recommendations. Today, SelfDecode has helped over 100,000 people understand how to get healthier using their DNA and labs.
Joe is a thriving entrepreneur, with a mission of empowering people to take advantage of the precision health revolution and uncover insights from their DNA and biomarkers so that we can all feel great all of the time.


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