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Lateral Hypothalamus (Limbic System) Definition & Function

Written by Puya Yazdi, MD | Last updated:
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SelfDecode Science Team | Written by Puya Yazdi, MD | Last updated:

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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

Puya Yazdi

Puya Yazdi

Dr. Puya Yazdi is a physician-scientist with 14+ years of experience in clinical medicine, life sciences, biotechnology, and nutraceuticals.
As a physician-scientist with expertise in genomics, biotechnology, and nutraceuticals, he has made it his mission to bring precision medicine to the bedside and help transform healthcare in the 21st century. He received his undergraduate education at the University of California at Irvine, a Medical Doctorate from the University of Southern California, and was a Resident Physician at Stanford University. He then proceeded to serve as a Clinical Fellow of The California Institute of Regenerative Medicine at The University of California at Irvine, where he conducted research of stem cells, epigenetics, and genomics. He was also a Medical Director for Cyvex Nutrition before serving as president of Systomic Health, a biotechnology consulting agency, where he served as an expert on genomics and other high-throughput technologies. His previous clients include Allergan, Caladrius Biosciences, and Omega Protein. He has a history of peer-reviewed publications, intellectual property discoveries (patents, etc.), clinical trial design, and a thorough knowledge of the regulatory landscape in biotechnology. He is leading our entire scientific and medical team in order to ensure accuracy and scientific validity of our content and products.

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