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
- Decreased appetite
- Decreased motivation
- Feeling cold
- Slow intestinal transit/motility (and possibly SIBO)
- 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.
- 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 .
Proposed Neurochemicals of the Lateral Hypothalamus
- Orexin A
- Orexin B
- Cannabinoid (i.e. anandamide)