Hypothalamus a Major Control Headquarters for the Limbic System

The hypothalamus, despite its very small size of only a few cubic centimeters, has two-way communicating pathways with all levels of the limbic system. In turn, it and its closely allied structures send output signals in three directions: (1) backward and downward to the brain stem, mainly into the reticular areas of the mes-encephalon, pons, and medulla and from these areas into the peripheral nerves of the autonomic nervous system; (2) upward toward many higher areas of the diencephalon and cerebrum, especially to the anterior thalamus and limbic portions of the cerebral cortex; and (3) into the hypothalamic infundibulum to control or partially control most of the secretory functions of both the posterior and the anterior pituitary glands.

Thus, the hypothalamus, which represents less than 1 per cent of the brain mass, is one of the most important of the control pathways of the limbic system. It controls most of the vegetative and endocrine functions of the body as well as many aspects of emotional

Figure 58-6

Control centers of the hypothalamus (sagittal view).

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