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Business Directory – Uptown Waterloo Business Improvement Area

Posted: December 15, 2017 at 4:46 pm

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Cerebral Palsy | Answers to Top Questions

Posted: December 13, 2017 at 9:43 pm

Learning that your child has cerebral palsy can be devastating news. Yet, by educating yourself, including learning about treatment options and how to help manage the disorder, your child can still live a productive life.

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a neurological disorder that affects a childs movement, motor skills, and muscle tone. In most cases, cerebral palsy is caused by brain damage that develops while the baby is still in utero or during or shortly after birth.

Cerebral palsy is a congenital disorder, affecting around 500,000 in the U.S. There is currently no cure for cerebral, but there are numerous treatment options that can help babies and children live quality lives that turn into successful adult lives.

Unfortunately, cerebral palsy can lead a number of other medical conditions, depending on the severity of the disorder. Other medical issues associated with cerebral palsy include:

The severity andtype of cerebral palsya child has can vary.Some children may just have some muscle spasms, while others are unable to walk. Some may have seizures and some may have cognitive disabilities. The condition can affect any muscles in the body, so possible complications include trouble with balance, eye problems, bladder or bowel problems, poor range of motion in joints, and difficulty swallowing. Cerebral palsy does not get worse with time.

There are different types of cerebral palsy that affects babies and children in different ways:

Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common type of the disorder, affecting around 76.9% of all people with CP. Spastic cerebral palsy differs from other types of CP due to it distinct symptoms and characteristics. Common symptoms and characteristics of spastic CP include:

Spastic quadriplegia is the most severe form of spastic CP. This type of cerebral palsy can affect a childs entire body, placing them at risk of limb deformities. Many children withspastic quadriplegia will also experience chronic seizures, so its important to work with a healthcare team to figure out the best treatment options.

Another form of spastic CP isspastic diplegia. Its not as severe asspastic quadriplegia, as children are still able to walk. However, they often walk on their toes and have issues with balance and coordination. Other symptoms of spastic diplegia include delayed milestones, fatigue, seizures, flexed knees, and a crouched gait. Legs are often affected more than arms.

Dyskinetic cerebral palsy (also known as dystonic and athetoid) is the 2nd most common form of cerebral palsy, although it only affects around 2.6% of all cases of the disorder. Symptoms of dyskinetic cerebral palsy include:

Ataxic cerebral palsy is named after the word ataxia, meaning without order. Its the least common type of cerebral palsy, marked by poor balance, incoordination, tremors, and shaky movements.

Mixed cerebral occurs when the child has two or more types of the aforementioned types of cerebral palsy. Spastic-dyskinetic cerebral is the most common type of mixed cerebral palsy. When children have mixed cerebral palsy, they may exhibit a combination of symptoms, matching each type of the disorder they have.

If you see obvious symptoms of cerebral palsy, you should consult your childs pediatrician right away. Even if you notice things that might not be the more obvious signs of cerebral palsy (such as muscle spasms, stiff muscles, and abnormal movements), you should always take your concerns to your childs doctor. Early intervention is key when helping children with cerebral palsy.

Also keep in mind that there is no need to panic. In some cases, it will turn out that the child doesnt have CP. In other instances, parental instincts are spot-on, and treatment can begin shortly after.

In some instances, the cause of cerebral palsy remains unknown. However, research indicates that the disorder can be caused during pregnancy when the babys brain fails to develop correctly or gets damaged. Brain damage can occur from maternal illnesses and diseases, genetic factors, or using illegal drugs while pregnant Cerebral palsy can also happen during childbirth. Infants born too early are at risk of developing the disorder.Premature infants run the risk of oxygen loss and a host of other medical issues that can lead to brain damage, which may eventually lead to cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy doesnt always occur during pregnancy or childbirth. In some instance, children may have an accident during childhood that can lead to brain damage and cerebral palsy. Additionally, babies or toddlers may develop a severe medical condition, such as meningitis, that can lead to brain damage and cerebral palsy.

Another possible cause of cerebral palsy is brain damage caused by medical negligence. When the baby is deprived of oxygen during birth, the damage can be enough to cause cerebral palsy. Improper use of forceps and other tools during delivery can also cause damage.

A doctor may also be at fault for failing to do something, like delaying a Cesarean section or failing to perform one altogether, not properly monitoring the health of the fetus, or not detecting and treating infections. Many parents have started lawsuits against doctors and hospitals when negligence was suspected in a cerebral palsy case.

No, cerebral palsy isnt a disease. As aforementioned, its aneurological disorder which affects movement and muscle control. Cerebral refers to the brain and palsy refers to movement.

Theres a huge misconception that all children with cerebral palsy are intellectually impaired. Not only is this myth untrue, but many children with cerebral palsy have above average intelligence. There are doctors, attorneys, teachers, and more, who live with cerebral palsy yet carry out demanding careers. Remember, the part of the brain thats damaged is the part that controls movement only.

Some children, however, will develop some form of cognitive impairment, due to the injury that caused CP in the first place. TheNational Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) reports that around 2/3 of all people with cerebral palsy have some form of intellectual impairment. The degree of the impairment depends on individual circumstances. Healthcare professionals will be able to work with your child to determine what level, if any, of cognitive impairment exists.

In many instances, cerebral palsy isnt diagnosed until the child reaches the age of walking and talking. If parents suspect a problem with lack of muscle control and coordination, theyll usually find out from the childs physician if he/she has cerebral palsy.

In other instances, especially if a baby is born prematurely or has a heightened risk of developing the disorder, there is a chance that the infant will get a diagnose in the first few months of life.

When diagnosing cerebral palsy, doctors look for poor coordination skills, spastic movements, uncontrolled muscle movements. Based upon a muscle movement test and the childs medical history and a physical exam, a doctor will be able to ascertain whether your child has cerebral palsy or not.

Physicians will also perform development screenings on the infant or child. A development screening test will allow doctors to see if the patient has motor movement delays or any other type of developmental delays.

Its important to remember that diagnosing cerebral palsy is not done in one day. It will take time to get a proper diagnosis, although premature infants may get a quicker diagnosis than a toddler.

Most cases of cerebral palsy cannot be prevented because most causes of the disorder are still unknown. However, there are always steps you can take while pregnant to helplower your risk of having a baby with cerebral palsy.

If youre not pregnant yet, make sure youre eating healthy, wholesome foods and that any pre-existing medical problems are under control. If youre already pregnant, its crucial to continue to eat healthy while taking prenatal vitamins and avoiding drinking alcohol and smoking.

Unfortunately, no one knows when an infant will suffer brain damage at the hands of a physician. As mentioned earlier, pulling too hard on an infant, especially while using birth-assisting tools (forceps) can result in severe injuries, including brain damage.

On the other hand, infants who are not pulled out in time during childbirth run the risk of being deprived of oxygen, so doctors must extremely careful not only when pulling the infant out, but ensuring the infant doesnt get hurt when a quick delivery is needed.

Sometimes an emergency C-section is needed if an infant is not progressing as he/she should during a normal delivery. If the C-section isnt ordered and carried out in time, the infant may suffer brain damage, which can lead to cerebral palsy.

If you already have an infant or toddler at home, be certain to baby proof your home. This includes making sure cleaning supplies and other toxic substances are out of reach.

Currently theres no cure for cerebral palsy, but a variety treatment options can provide help and improve the quality of life of babies and children.

Therapy is common for almost all children with cerebral palsy as it helps them with the crucial aspects of growth and development. Therapy is usually started shortly after a diagnosis and can include both physical and speech therapy. Therapies help patients learn techniques for movements, stretching, hearing, eating, drinking, learning, speech, hearing, and social development.

Medications

Generally, medications are used to help control spastic movements, seizures, and control pain. Your physician will go over what kind of medication your child will need, depending on his/her symptoms. The followingmedications may be prescribed to help with cerebral palsy symptoms include:

Surgery

Surgery, in some cases, may be a treatment option. Surgery for cerebral palsy is usually to help children have better orthopedic functions. Common surgery for cerebral palsy patients include repairing hip dislocations, as well as scoliosis surgery. Surgery also may include nerve root repair, tight/stiff muscle repair, and surgery to reduce spasticity.

Leg braces, wheelchairs, communication boards, and other assistive devices may also be a part of the treatment care plan. In addition, your child may have numerous healthcare professionals assisting him/her, including physical therapists, physicians, counselors, social workers, nurses, special education teachers, and more.

Surgery in the upper extremities is also common, especially on the arms and shoulders.

Therapy

Therapy, provided in various forms, help people with cerebral palsy withphysical, mental, social, and academic benefits. If its started early enough after diagnosis, many forms of therapy for cerebral palsy can reduce impairment and the risks of developing other conditions associated with cerebral palsy.

Therapy is usually combined with other treatments, such as drug therapy, surgery, and assistive technology, which help benefit the child even further. When physicians determines the childs medical goals, they can then develop an individualized therapy plan.

Keep in mindthat therapy can also be extremely beneficial to parents and caregivers. For example, nutritional therapy can help people understand specific dietary needs, while behavioral therapy can help teach parents the benefits of positive reinforcement.

Common types of therapy used to help children with cerebral palsy include:

Prior to the mid 20th century, many children with cerebral palsy didnt live through adulthood, but that was before todays medical advancements. Cerebral palsy is not a fatal disorder, but it generally requires early intervention and good medical care, especially for children with severe forms of the disorder. Today, the odds of reaching adulthood are much more favorable for children with cerebral palsy.

Its important to note that some of the conditions of cerebral palsy can be life-threatening if not treated in time or correctly, such asbreathing and swallowing difficulties (which can lead to pneumonia or malnutrition), chronic seizures, or life-threatening pressure sore infections.

Associated conditions, also known as associated disorders, are medical conditions that co-exist with another medical condition. However, associated conditions shouldnt be confused with secondary conditions, which are caused directly by the primary condition (cerebral palsy).

For instance, a secondary condition of cerebral palsy could be the inability chew and swallow directly, skin problems due to drooling, or bowel issues. In other words, secondary conditions happen because of cerebral palsy itself, while associated conditions are different medical issues altogether that some children with cerebral palsy will develop.

There are a number of cerebral palsy associated conditions. It doesnt mean that every child with cerebral palsy will develop these, but generally, kids with CP have at least one co-existing medical disorder. The most common associated conditions of cerebral palsy include:

The prognosis for cerebral palsy depends on each individual, but most people with the disorder have a typical life expectancy, no different from anyone else. Manychildren with cerebral palsy have average or even above average intelligence measures, although many may have some form of cognitive issues that will require additional educational assistance. Yet, most kidscan go to school with their peers, but may need adaptive equipment for physical needs, to communicate, or for mobility.

Some children have light cerebral palsy, as mentioned earlier, and aside from muscle spasms and muscle tightness, they may be able to carry on as non-disabled child, with no associated disorders. Other cases of cerebral palsy, are of course, more severe, and a child with severe CP may have a number of associated conditions. The associated conditions are typically what cause many medical problems, which, in some cases, can affect lifespan, especially without early intervention.

Children with special needs often need additional medical care and other requirements that can become quite costly. According to theMorbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), the average cost to raise a child with cerebral palsy, including direct and indirect medical costs, is around $921,000 (this doesnt include out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, or emergency room visits).If you find yourself struggling to keep up with expenses, there are several options that you and/or your child may qualify for.

For example, kids with motor dysfunctions qualify for cash assistance from the government. This falls under section 111.000 of the Social Security Disability Evaluation. There is a process you need to follow to get your child qualified, including gathering pertinent medical information, labs and tests results, social security number, birth certificate, etc. Those approved for cash assistance from the Social Security Administration (SSA), generally qualify for full medical insurance at little to no charge.

Additionally, you may qualify for free or reduced child care for special needs children under theAmericans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and educational assistance under theThe Individuals with Disabilities Act of 2004.

Last but not least, if your childs cerebral palsy was caused due to negligent medical mistakes, you have the option to file for compensation against the responsible party. Negligent medical mistakes can happen in a variety of different ways.

As previously mentioned, medical errors occur when a doctor or another healthcare professional make careless and negligent mistakes during the mothers pregnancy, or during or shortly after childbirth. The following are some of the common ways that medical errors occur:

Malpractice is a tricky area, however, because not only does there have to be enough proof in place to file a case, but there are also certain rules in place that must be met. For example, most states require that a patient/doctor relationship must have existed when the medical negligence took place. Additionally, youll need to ensure that injuries did indeed come from the negligent mistakes of a healthcare provider (s). However, if the case is valid, a successful legal suit can help you take care of your child for life.

The United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people with cerebral palsy. Assistance from UCP comes in many different ways from over 80 nationwide affiliates, and can include helpwith transportation, housing, recreational activities, traveling, health awareness, assistive technologies, and much more. According to the official UCP site,

UCP educates, advocates and provides support services to ensure a life without limits for people with a spectrum of disabilities. UCP works to advance the independence, productivity and full citizenship of people with disabilities through an affiliate network that has helped millions.

Currently, there is no cure for cerebral palsy. However, the disorder itself doesnt get worse as someone ages (although associated medical conditions of CP can sometimes increase in severity). That being said, scientists and researchers conduct ongoing studies in hopes of one day finding a cure.

Some of the current cerebral palsy research includes studies on stem cells, which has shown promise. In a study done by Dr. Evan Snyder, a neurologist at Harvard Medical School, mice injected with stem cells had damaged brain cells replaced with healthy ones. Its still unclear whether this method will work with children, but scientist continue to research to determine if there is a safe and proven way for damaged brain cells to repair themselves or replenish with new cells.

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Parkinson’s Disease: Symptoms, Causes, Stages, Treatment

Posted: December 11, 2017 at 12:42 pm

What Is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a fairly common age-related and progressive disease of brain cells (brain disorder) that affect movement, loss of muscle control, and balance. Usually, the first symptoms include a tremor (hand, foot, or leg), also termed a “shaking palsy.”

The majority of people develop Parkinson’s disease after age 60 (although a few patients like Michael J. Fox develop it at an early age of about 30 and boxer Muhammad Ali at age 42). Men are about 1.5 times more likely to develop it than women. In general, the disease slowly progresses with more pronounced symptoms developing over many years. Although a few patients, especially those who develop it in their younger years may have more rapid symptom development, symptoms slowly increase over many years. Treatments may reduce symptoms in many patients.

Three key symptoms that develop early in Parkinson’s disease are a tremor, usually on one side of the body (hand, foot, arm, or other body part) when the person is at rest. The second symptom is rigidity, or resistance to movement when someone tries to move the person’s joint or when the person has difficulty going from a sitting to a standing position. The third symptom is termed bradykinesia, or slowness, and small movements. Bradykinesia is seen in people that have small handwriting (micrographia) and decreased facial expression (the person often only has a somber or serious expression under most circumstances). This condition is termed a “masked face.”

The tremors of Parkinson’s disease usually occur first in a single extremity body part (finger, hand, foot) that is at rest in about 70% of patients; the tremor usually stops when the body part is in use by the person. The tremor is fast (4 to 6 cycles per second that shakes rhythmically). Some people will exhibit a fast “pill rolling” action that is a tremor between the thumb and index finger.

As stated above, bradykinesia can be an early symptom of Parkinson’s disease. It is exemplified by slow initial movements, difficulty getting up from a sitting position, involuntarily slowing or stopping while walking, and little or no change in facial expressions that may seem inappropriate to people who do not know that the person has Parkinson’s disease.

As Parkinson’s disease progresses, other symptoms related to muscles and movement may develop. Patients may develop a poor posture (stooped posture) with drooping shoulders, feet shuffling, and the head extended or jutting forward. This often leads to balance problems and falls.

Again, since rigidity is a common symptom, muscle groups in affected extremities don’t relax so crampy pain may occur. One sign of Parkinson’s disease is that one arm may not swing back and forth normally when the person walks.

The following are symptoms that some patient’s with Parkinson’s disease may develop especially as the disease progresses; not every patient will have some or all of these symptoms:

Diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is best accomplished by a specialist such as a neurologist. Most diagnoses are made presumptively by doctors by confirming most of the early symptoms listed above and by ruling out other conditions that may produce similar symptoms such as a tumor or stroke. The main things the doctor will look for are a tremor at rest and rigidity (involuntary) when the doctor moves the extremities. The doctor will often check your response to an unanticipated pull from behind. The doctor will tell you what will happen and protect you from a fall as he checks your ability to recover your balance.

There is no definitive test for the disease except for a biopsy of specific brain tissue that is only usually done at autopsy. Other tests (CT scan, MRI) may be used to help physicians distinguish between Parkinson’s disease and other medical problems (for example, stroke, brain tumors).

Essential tremors may be confused with the tremors in Parkinson’s disease. However, essential tremors usually affect both extremities (hands) equally and get worse when the hands are used, in contrast to Parkinson’s tremors. Also, Parkinson’s tremors are reduced or temporally stopped with carbidopa-levodopa medication while essential tremors respond to other medications. Parkinson’s disease does not usually occur in multiple family members but essential tremors do and are more common than Parkinson’s tremors.

As stated previously, men are about 1.5 times more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than women; however, although the majority of all patients that get the disease are over 60, the total chance of getting the disease is about 2% to 4% in this age group. Consequently, the disease is not rare but the chances of someone age 60 or over developing the disease is not high.

Cells in the substantia nigra, a part of the brainstem that controls movement, slow down and then stop producing dopamine as the cells die. Dopamine helps nerve cells communicate about movement; without the dopamine, body commands about normal movement are disrupted resulting in Parkinson’s disease because the brain does not receive the necessary messages about how and when to move. Unfortunately, the ultimate cause of Parkinson’s disease, the reason that the cells in the brainstem become altered and die, is not known but researchers suggest that a combination of both genetic and environmental factors cause about 90% of all Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is usually slowly progressive over time (years). The advancement is assessed by the symptom severity (Hoehn and Yahr Scale) and other measures such as mental function, behavior, mood, motor functions, and the ability to complete daily activities (self-maintenance, independence) as measured by the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale. These evaluations give physicians clues as how to best manage and treat the individual.

Levodopa, in the form of carbidopa and levodopa combined in a single tablet, has been the most effective medication to reduce or temporarily stop Parkinson’s disease symptoms. The brain tissue converts this drug to dopamine. However, over time (about 6 years) the symptomatic reduction caused by the drug starts to fade and higher doses and other medications may be added. In addition, side effects of levodopa may develop (nausea, vomiting, mental changes, and involuntary movements), especially with use over years. These side effects can be reduced by slowly increasing the medication dose over time.

Although carbidopa-levodopa is the usual first-choice drug to treat Parkinson’s disease, other drugs that mimic the action of dopamine, termed dopamine agonists, may be used when the effects of carbidopa-levodopa wane. Such drugs as Apokyn, Mirapex, Parlodel, and Requip are used; these drugs have side effects similar to carbidopa-levodopa (for example, nausea, vomiting, and psychosis).

Some drugs are used in combination with carbidopa-levodopa to either inhibit dopamine breakdown by the body or to improve the effectiveness of carbidopa-levodopa. Azilect, Eldepryl,and Zelapar inhibit dopamine breakdown while Entacapone and Tasmar can improve the effect of carbidopa-levodopa.

Another treatment method, usually attempted as effectiveness of medical treatments for Parkinson’s disease wane, is termed deep brain stimulation. The technique involves surgery to implant electrodes deep into the brain in the globus pallidus, thalamus, or the subthalamic nucleus areas. Then electric impulses that stimulate the brain tissue to help overcome tremors, rigidity, and slow movements are given. Impulses are generated by a battery. This surgery is not for every Parkinson’s disease patient; it is done on patients that meet certain criteria. Also, the surgery does not stop other symptoms and does not end the progression of the disease.

Another type of surgery used when symptoms are poorly responsive to medications is brain surgery that either removes or destroys brain tissue. The techniques are termed pallidotomy and subthalamotomy. The techniques usually involve radiofrequency to destroy small areas of brain tissue. Some patient’s symptoms can be reduced by these techniques but they do not reduce all symptoms and some patients suffer complications when brain tissue is irreversibly destroyed. Deep brain stimulation is replacing these treatments.

As is the case for most medical problems, a well-balanced diet usually benefits the patient. Some of the individual symptoms of Parkinson’s disease such as constipation can be treated with a high-fiber diet with increased fluids. Carbidopa-levodopa medication effects can be reduced by proteins in foods, but if the medication is taken with fluid about 30 minutes before a meal, the protein interference can be reduced or eliminated. Some patients may benefit from vitamin and mineral supplements.

Currently, there is nothing that can prevent symptoms of Parkinson’s disease although treatment can reduce symptoms. Statistically, people who drink coffee and smokers have a lower incidence of Parkinson’s disease but they may develop other problems due to these habits (especially smokers). Since researchers speculate that about 90% of Parkinson’s disease is due to a combination of genetic and environmental causes, avoiding certain environmental triggers may prevent some individuals from developing the disease. In addition, researchers are trying to find medications or supplements that can protect the brain cells that produce dopamine.

As mentioned, environmental factors such as exposure to pesticides, herbicides, and other toxins, when exposed to people with genetic susceptibility, may increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Statistically, people that live in rural areas, drink well water, are exposed to pesticides, herbicides, and pulp mills have a higher risk of developing the disease. In addition, researchers have demonstrated some drug side effects cause Parkinson’s-like symptoms.

A number of studies suggest that exercise helps reduce and delay the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Tremor reduction, improved balance, and muscle coordination can be some of the benefits of exercise. Clinicians suggest that consistent exercise about 3 hours per week may provide a reduction in symptoms. Different exercises provide different benefits; exercises like yoga may improve balance while using a treadmill may improve leg strength and weights may help overall extremity strength and balance.

Parkinson’s disease, especially in the more advanced patients, often requires an adjustment in lifestyle. As symptoms progress, anxiety and depression are often experienced by the patient (and often their caregivers). Items in the home such as throw rugs, electrical cords, and slippery tile may need to be removed to reduce the risk of falls. Bathroom modifications such as handles or grab bars may be needed. The diet might need modification if swallowing or constipation becomes a problem. An occupational and speech therapist may help with other problems.

Caregivers can be challenged by the increasing needs of a declining Parkinson’s patient. It is important that caregivers have a good concept of this progressive disease. Support groups (American Parkinson Disease Association, National Parkinson Foundation, and the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation) are available to help caregivers understand the disease process and how to cope with the various problems they face in caring for a Parkinson’s disease patient.

For more information about Parkinson’s Disease, please consider the following:

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Hypothalamus – New World Encyclopedia

Posted: December 6, 2017 at 6:45 pm

The hypothalamus, also known as the “master gland,” is a supervising center in the brain that links the body’s two control systems, the nervous system and the endocrine system, via interaction with the pituitary gland (hypophysis). The hypothalamus (from Greek , “under the thalamus”) is located below the thalamus, just above the brain stem, and occupies the major portion of the ventral region of the brain known as the diencephalon. The hypothalamus is found in all mammalian brains; in humans, it is roughly the size of an almond.

The hypothalamus gland regulates certain metabolic processes and other autonomic activities; it is a control center for functions of the autonomic nervous system. As needed, the hypothalamus synthesizes and secretes neurohormones, often called “releasing hormones,” that control the secretion of hormones from the anterior pituitary gland.

The hypothalamus controls body temperature, hunger, thirst, blood pressure, heartbeat, carbohydrate and fat metabolism, and circadian cycles. Also, among other hormones, it releases gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH). The neurons that secrete GnRH are linked to the limbic system, which is primarily involved in the control of emotions and sexual activity. Specific functions are related to particular sections of the hypothalamus called nuclei.

Although the hypothalamus is envisioned as a “master gland,” regulating such aspects as emotions (fear, rage) and sexual behavior, the typical religious conception of human beings is more complicated. Rather than seeing human beings as just a physical entity, governed by physical impulses, most religions depict each person as having a spiritual essence as well as a physical essence. Emotions and sexual activity are understood to be the result of an interaction of the physical (body) component of a human being (in this case, the hypothalamus) and the spiritual component (mind). While damage to the brain will interfere with this relationship, in healthy individuals actions take place based on this reciprocal, give and receive relationship between the spiritual and the physical.

The hypothalamus is a very complex region, and even small nuclei within the hypothalamus are involved in many different functions. The paraventricular nucleus, for instance, contains oxytocin and vasopressin neurons which project to the posterior pituitary, but also contains neurons that regulate adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) secretion (which project to the anterior pituitary), gastric reflexes, maternal behavior, blood pressure, food and liquid uptake, immune responses, and temperature.

The hypothalamus coordinates many seasonal and circadian rhythms, complex patterns of neuroendocrine outputs, complex homeostatic mechanisms, and many important stereotyped behaviors. The hypothalamus must therefore respond to many different signals, some of which are generated externally and some internally.

The hypothalamus thus is connected extensively with many parts of the central nervous system, including the brainstem reticular formation and autonomic zones, the limbic forebrain (particularly the amygdala, septum, diagonal band of Broca, and the olfactory bulbs), and the cerebral cortex.

The hypothalamus is responsive to:

Olfactory stimuli are important for reproduction and neuroendocrine function in many species. For instance, if a pregnant mouse is exposed to the urine of a “strange” male during a critical period after coitus, then the pregnancy fails (the Bruce effect). Thus during coitus, a female mouse forms a precise “olfactory memory” of her partner, which persists for several days.

Pheromonal cues aid synchronization of estrus in many species; in women, synchronized menstruation may also arise from pheromonal cues, although the role of pheromones in humans is contended by some.

Peptide hormones have important influences upon the hypothalamus, and to do so they must evade the blood-brain barrier. The hypothalamus is bounded in part by specialized brain regions that lack an effective blood-brain barrier; the capillary endothelium at these sites is fenestrated to allow free passage of even large proteins and other molecules.

Some of these sites are the sites of neurosecretion: The neurohypophysis and the median eminence. However, others are sites at which the brain samples the composition of the blood. Two of these sites, the subfornical organ and the OVLT (organum vasculosum of the lamina terminalis) are so-called circumventricular organs, where neurons are in intimate contact with both blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). These structures are densely vascularized, and contain osmoreceptive and sodium-receptive neurons that regulate fluid uptake (drinking), vasopressin release, sodium excretion, and sodium appetite. They also contain neurons with receptors for angiotensin, atrial natriuretic factor, endothelin, and relaxin, each of which is important in the regulation of fluid and electrolyte balance. Neurons in the OVLT and SFO project to the supraoptic nucleus and paraventricular nucleus, and also to preoptic hypothalamic areas. The circumventricular organs may also be the site of action of interleukins to elicit both fever and ACTH secretion, via effects on paraventricular neurons.

It is not clear how all peptides that influence hypothalamic activity gain the necessary access. In the case of prolactin and leptin, there is evidence of active uptake at the choroid plexus from blood into CSF. Some pituitary hormones have a negative feedback influence upon hypothalamic secretion; for example, growth hormone feeds back on the hypothalamus, but how it enters the brain is not clear. There is also evidence for central actions of prolactin and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).

The hypothalamus contains neurons that are sensitive to gonadal steroids and glucocorticoids (the steroid hormones of the adrenal gland, released in response to ACTH). It also contains specialized glucose-sensitive neurons (in the arcuate nucleus and ventromedial hypothalamus), which are important for appetite. The preoptic area contains thermosensitive neurons; these are important for thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) secretion.

The hypothalamus receives many inputs from the brainstem; notably from the nucleus of the solitary tract, the locus coeruleus, and the ventrolateral medulla. Oxytocin secretion in response to suckling or vagino-cervical stimulation is mediated by some of these pathways; vasopressin secretion in response to cardiovascular stimuli arising from chemoreceptors in the carotid sinus and aortic arch, and from low-pressure atrial volume receptors, is mediated by others. In the rat, stimulation of the vagina also causes prolactin secretion, and this results in pseudo-pregnancy following an infertile mating. In the rabbit, coitus elicits reflex ovulation. In the sheep, cervical stimulation in the presence of high levels of estrogen can induce maternal behavior in a virgin ewe. These effects are all mediated by the hypothalamus, and the information is carried mainly by spinal pathways that relay in the brainstem. Stimulation of the nipples stimulates release of oxytocin and prolactin and suppresses the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).

Cardiovascular stimuli are carried by the vagus nerve, but the vagus also conveys a variety of visceral information, including, for instance, signals arising from gastric distension to suppress feeding. Again this information reaches the hypothalamus via relays in the brainstem.

The hypothalamic nuclei include the following:

Medial preoptic nucleusSupraoptic nucleusParaventricular nucleusAnterior nucleusSuprachiasmatic nucleus

Lateral preoptic nucleusLateral nucleusPart of supraoptic nucleus

Dorsomedial nucleusVentromedial nucleusArcuate nucleus

Lateral nucleusLateral tuberal nuclei

Mammillary nuclei (part of mammillary bodies)Posterior nucleus

The outputs of the hypothalamus can be divided into two categories: Neural projections and endocrine hormones (Weedman Molavi 1997).

Most fiber systems of the hypothalamus run in two ways (bidirectional).

Most of the hormones generated in the hypothalamus are distributed to the pituitary via the hypophyseal portal system (Bowen 1998).

The primary hypothalamic hormones are:

The extreme lateral part of the ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus is responsible for the control of food intake. Stimulation of this area causes increased food intake, while bilateral lesion of this area causes complete cessation of food intake. Medial parts of the nucleus have a controlling effect on the lateral part. Bilateral lesion of the medial part of the ventromedial nucleus causes hyperphagia and obesity of the animal. Further lesion of the lateral part of the ventromedial nucleus in the same animal produces complete cessation of food intake.

There are different hypotheses related to this regulation (Theologides 1976):

Several hypothalamic nuclei are sexually dimorphic. In other words, there are clear differences in both structure and function between males and females.

Some differences are apparent even in gross neuroanatomy: Most notable is the sexually dimorphic nucleus within the preoptic area, which is present only in males. However, most of the differences are subtle changes in the connectivity and chemical sensitivity of particular sets of neurons.

The importance of these changes can be recognized by functional differences between males and females. For instance, the pattern of secretion of growth hormone is sexually dimorphic, and this is one reason why in many species, adult males are much larger than females.

A striking functional dimorphism is in the behavioral responses to ovarian steroids of the adult. Males and females respond differently to ovarian steroids, partly because the expression of estrogen-sensitive neurons in the hypothalamus is sexually dimorphic. In other words, estrogen receptors are expressed in different sets of neurons.

Estrogen and progesterone act by influencing gene expression in particular neurons. To influence gene expression, estrogen binds to an intracellular receptor, and this complex is translocated to the cell nucleus where it interacts with regions of the DNA known as estrogen regulatory elements (EREs). Increased protein synthesis may follow as soon as 30 min later.

Thus, for estrogen to influence the expression of a particular gene in a particular cell, the following must occur:

Male and female brains differ in the distribution of estrogen receptors, and this difference is an irreversible consequence of neonatal steroid exposure. Estrogen receptors (and progesterone receptors) are found mainly in neurons in the anterior and mediobasal hypothalamus, notably:

In neonatal life, gonadal steroids influence the development of the neuroendocrine hypothalamus. For instance, they determine the ability of females to exhibit a normal reproductive cycle, and of males and females to display appropriate reproductive behaviors in adult life.

In primates, the developmental influence of androgens is less clear, and the consequences are less complete. “Tomboyism” in girls might reflect the effects of androgens on the fetal brain, but the sex of rearing during the first 2-3 years is believed by many to be the most important determinant of gender identity, because during this phase either estrogen or testosterone will have permanent effects on either a female or male brain, influencing both heterosexuality and homosexuality.

The paradox is that the masculinizing effects of testosterone are mediated by estrogen. Within the brain, testosterone is aromatized to estradiol, which is the principal active hormone for developmental influences. The human testis secretes high levels of testosterone from about week 8 of fetal life until 5-6 months after birth (a similar perinatal surge in testosterone is observed in many species), a process that appears to underlie the male phenotype. Estrogen from the maternal circulation is relatively ineffective, partly because of the high circulating levels of steroid-binding proteins in pregnancy.

Sex steroids are not the only important influences upon hypothalamic development; stress (positive or negative) in early life determines the capacity of the adult hypothalamus to respond to an acute stressor. Unlike gonadal steroid receptors, glucocorticoid receptors are very widespread throughout the brain; in the paraventricular nucleus, they mediate negative feedback control of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRF) synthesis and secretion, but elsewhere their role is not well understood.

Studies in female mice have shown that both Supraoptic nucleus (SON) and Paraventricular nucleus (PVN) lose approximately one-third of IGF-1R immunoreactive cells with normal aging. Also, Old caloricly restricted (CR) mice lost higher numbers of IGF-1R non-immunoreactive cells while maintaining similar counts of IGF-1R immunoreactive cells in comparison to Old-Al mice. Consequently, Old-CR mice show a higher percentage of IGF-1R immunoreactive cells reflecting increased hypothalamic sensitivity to IGF-1 in comparison to normally aging mice (Saeed et al. 2007; Yaghmaie et al. 2006; Yaghmaie et al. 2007).

Median sagittal section of brain of human embryo of three months.

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Hypothalamus – New World Encyclopedia

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Hypothalamus – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Function …

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Last Updated On April 29, 2013 By surekha

Hypothalamus, though small in size, directs and controls range of functions of the body. It is located beneath the thalamus region and is bordered on its side by temporal lobes.

It is that portion of the brain that is responsible for controlling homeostasis (internal balance of the body). It is the center that controls many autonomic functions of the body. It maintains strong connections with endocrine and nervous systems. Hypothalamus is the region that produces many hormones.

Hypothalamus is the part that either stimulates or inhibits bodys vital functions like heart rate and blood pressure. It controls and determines body temperature. This portion of the brain is responsible for causing thirst and maintains electrolyte balance in your body. It controls the glandular secretions of intestine and stomach. It regulates your sleep cycle. It is responsible for controlling motor functions of the body.

Hormones Secreted by Hypothalamus :

Hypothalamus is vital in maintaining the functions of pituitary gland in the brain. Once it receives signal from the nervous system, it secretes neuro-hormones which in turn initiates the secretion of several pituitary hormones like Anti Diuretic hormone ADH, Corticotropin Releasing Hormone CRH, Gonadotrophin Releasing Hormone GnRH, Growth Hormone Releasing and inhibiting GHRH and GHIH, and Prolactin Hormone (releasing and inhibiting).

Thus hypothalamus is responsible for the normal growth and development of the body; it controls various bodily functions including sleep cycles. It is also responsible for invoking various emotional responses.

Hypothalamus Disease :

Any abnormality on the hypothalamus can cause hypothalamus disease and disorder. Very often hard blow or physical injury to the head is the main cause for this disease.

When hypothalamus gets affected it may cause serious problem in appetite and sleep since it regulates the endocrine system of the body.

The region of hypothalamus and pituitary are so close and interconnected that it becomes difficult to diagnose whether particular problem is caused due to problems in pituitary gland or hypothalamus.

Causes of Hypothalamus Disorders :

Excess of iron molecules on the body can cause many diseases on the hypothalamus region. Hypothalamus disorders can be caused due to malnutrition (lack of essential nutrients for the body).

Anorexia nervosa and bilirumia are abnormalities caused due to hypothalamus diseases. They are classified under eating disorders either overeating or eating very less.

Any kind of trauma or injury on the head can cause problems in the functions of hypothalamus.

Brain tumor of any kind can seriously affect the normal functions of hypothalamus.

Symptoms :

The signs and symptoms vary widely with the underlying condition that is responsible for the disorder. There can be frequent headaches, dizziness, vision problems and confusion.

Since hypothalamus and pituitary gland are interconnected any abnormality on the hypothalamus can affect the functions of pituitary gland hormones. Hence it can cause constipation, weight loss or gain, hair loss, sexual dysfunction and impotence.

Hypothalamus is responsible for regulating body temperature, any irregularity in this region will reflect in the form of high fever.

Children with hypothalamus disorder can have growth impairment since it controls the release of growth hormones.

Treatment :

Treatment depends on the causative factors and on the severity of symptoms. For people with malnutrition, healthy diet is prescribed. For treating eating disorders like anorexia nervosa counseling therapy and medications are given.

For severe problems like brain tumor or blood clot inside the brain, surgery is done depending on the intensity of damage.

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Hypothalamus Hormones | Function of the Hypothalamus Gland

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Known as the bodys messengers, hormones affect the way the body feels and functions, and are produced by many different parts of the body. The hypothalamus, a part of the brain, is responsible for many hormones. Understanding these “brainy hormones” will help you take control of your body and your health.

The hypothalamus produces hormones that control the production of hormones in the pituitary gland. These two parts of the body work together to tell the other endocrine glands when it is time to release the hormones they are designed to make. Because of this, hypothalamus function is directly related to overall hormone health. If the hypothalamus is damaged due to traumatic brain injury or genetic factors, overall hormonal health will suffer.

The hypothalamus produces seven different hormones:

Each of these hormones must be in careful balance in order for the body to function properly. Too much or too little of any of these will affect the body’s health and well-being. For example, too much of the anti-diuretic hormone can lead to water retention, while levels that are too low can cause dehydration or a drop in blood pressure.

The corticotropin-releasing hormone can lead to problems with acne, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, infertility and muscle problems if the body has too much of it. Low levels can cause weight loss, increased skin pigmentation, gastrointestinal distress and low blood pressure.

People struggling with gonadotropin-releasing hormone levels may notice problems with poor bone health or a lack of fertility. Low levels can cause infertility, while high levels can disrupt communication between the hypothalamus and pituitary gland.

The growth-hormone releasing hormone, in high levels, can cause abnormal enlargement of the skull, hands and feet, as well as problems with menstruation or diabetes. Low levels can delay puberty in children or decrease muscle mass in adults. Somatostatin, the growth-hormone-inhibiting hormone, can cause digestive problems, diabetes and gallstones while low levels of this hormone can cause uncontrolled growth hormone secretion, leading to psychological problems.

High levels of oxytocin have been linked to enlarge prostate glands, while low levels can cause breastfeeding difficulties and symptoms of autism or a lack of social development.

Finally, patients with high levels of the thyrotropin-releasing hormone may experience fatigue, depression, weight gain, constipation, dry skin and hair loss. Weight loss, weak muscles, excessive sweating and heavy menstrual flow are symptoms of levels that are too low.

If you suspect that you may have problems with your hypothalamus function, talk to your doctor and endocrinologist about the proper testing, so you can get back to a normal life free from the problems caused by a poorly functioning hypothalamus.

Brainy Hormones of this infographic.

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Hypothalamic disease – Wikipedia

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Hypothalamic disease is a disorder presenting primarily in the hypothalamus, which may be caused by damage resulting from malnutrition, including anorexia and bulimia eating disorders,[1][2] genetic disorders, radiation, surgery, head trauma,[3] lesion,[1] tumour or other physical injury to the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is the control center for several endocrine functions. Endocrine systems controlled by the hypothalamus are regulated by anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), corticotropin-releasing hormone, gonadotropin-releasing hormone, growth hormone-releasing hormone, oxytocin, all of which are secreted by the hypothalamus. Damage to the hypothalamus may impact any of these hormones and the related endocrine systems. Many of these hypothalamic hormones act on the pituitary gland. Hypothalamic disease therefore affects the functioning of the pituitary and the target organs controlled by the pituitary, including the adrenal glands, ovaries and testes, and the thyroid gland.[2]

Numerous dysfunctions manifest as a result of hypothalamic disease. Damage to the hypothalamus may cause disruptions in body temperature regulation, growth, weight, sodium and water balance, milk production, emotions, and sleep cycles.[1][2][4]Hypopituitarism, neurogenic diabetes insipidus, tertiary hypothyroidism, and developmental disorders are examples of precipitating conditions caused by hypothalamic disease.

The hypothalamus and pituitary gland are tightly integrated. Damage to the hypothalamus will impact the responsiveness and normal functioning of the pituitary. Hypothalamic disease may cause insufficient or inhibited signalling to the pituitary leading to deficiencies of one or more of the following hormones: thyroid-stimulating hormone, adrenocorticotropic hormone, beta-endorphin, luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and melanocytestimulating hormones. Treatment for hypopituitarism involves hormone replacement therapy.[1]

Neurogenic diabetes insipidus may occur due to low levels of ADH production from the hypothalamus.[1][5][6] Insufficient levels of ADH result in increased thirst and urine output, and prolonged excessive urine excretion increases the risk of dehydration.[6]

The thyroid gland is an auxiliary organ to the hypothalamus-pituitary system. Thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) produced by the hypothalamus signals to the pituitary to release thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which then stimulates the thyroid to secrete T4 and T3thyroid hormones.[7][8] Secondary hypothyroidism occurs when TSH secretion from the pituitary is impaired, whereas tertiary hypothyroidism is the deficiency or inhibition of TRH.[7]

Thyroid hormones are responsible for metabolic activity. Insufficient production of the thyroid hormones result in suppressed metabolic activity and weight gain. Hypothalamic disease may therefore have implications for obesity.[9]

Growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) is another releasing factor secreted by the hypothalamus. GHRH stimulates the pituitary gland to secrete growth hormone (GH), which has various effects on body growth and sexual development.[1][5] Insufficient GH production may cause poor somatic growth, precocious puberty or gonadotropin deficiency, failure to initiate or complete puberty, and is often associated with rapid weight gain, low T4, and low levels of sex hormones.[5]

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Hypothalamus | Hypothalamus Gland – Sleep Disorders Guide

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Hypothalamus is an integral part of the substance of the brain that controls a number of physical functions.

It regulates variety of hormonal functions by action on the pituitary gland.

It exerts control over the blood vessels and glands of the body via the autonomic nervous system.

Hypothalamus is situated below the thalamus. Thalamus is a huge collection of nuclei in the centre of the cerebral hemispheres. Hypothalamus forms part of the walls and floor of the central chamber of the cerebral ventricles, called third ventricle.

Your bodys biological clock is present in your hypothalamus. The biological clock is the circadian rhythm that changes your mental and physical characteristics according to whether it is day or night.

Your hypothalamus needs natural daylight in order to function properly. When you have chronic fatigue syndrome, you will not get much daylight.

Hypothalamus gland is the master gland of your body. It regulates metabolism and physiological hunger. It influences food intake, weight regulation, fluid intake and balance, thirst, body heat, sexual behavior, and sleep cycle.

Hypothalamus receives many sensory inputs which include information from major senses such as taste and cell receptors. Different nerve cell nuclei are present in hypothalamus.

Suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) receives axons directly from the optic nerve, which carries information from the eye, and is used to regulate sleep and other body rhythms.The SCN controls pathway to pineal gland, which plays a part in the biological clock by secreting melatonin.

It manages all endocrine hormonal levels, sensory processing and organizing body metabolism as well as ingestive behaviors. If any fear or excitement occurs, it causes signals to travel to the hypothalamus which triggers a rapid heartbeat, faster breathing, pupils widening and increased flow of blood.

Hypothalamus is a complex region and even small nuclei, with in it are involved in many different functions. The hypothalamus co-ordinates many seasonal and circadian rhythms, complex patterns of neuroendocrine outputs, complex homeostatic mechanisms and many important stereotyped behaviors.

It responds to many different signals, some of which are generated externally and some internally. The hypothalamus is responsible to daylength and photoperiod for generating seasonal and circadian rhythms. It is responsible to neurally transmitted information arising in particular from stomach, heart and the reproductive tract.

Hypothalamus damage can result from surgery, trauma such as road accident or stroke, degeneration owing to old age or disease and tumour. The result of the damage can vary and depend on the area of the hypothalamus involved.

When hypothalamus is not working properly, wrong neuro-signals are generated and wrong neuro-messages are received, resulting in an inaccurate integration of all your sensory input. It leads to faulty perceptions which are very subtle but nonetheless powerful, making you feel empty, deprived and emotionally unsatisfied.

Hypothalamus disorder leads to depression, hyperactivity, disturbances in brain, and abnormal responses to stress.

Other symptoms of hypothalamus disorder include sexual abnormalities, obesity, loss of appetite, temperature regulation disorders, sleep disorders, psychic disturbances and disruption of circadian rhythms.

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What is Hypothalamus, Parts of Hypothalamus with Pictures

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What is Hypothalamus – Brief Introduction:

As you can see in the hypothalamus pictures, it measures about the size of an almond or pearl. It is an extremely important part of brain in human beings and other higher animals. Hypothalamus constitutes one of the four major components of diencephalon, while the other three are: thalamus, epithalamus and subthalamus. It is intimately associated with the function of autonomic & endocrine systems, formation of behavioral patterns, temperature control, reproduction, and so on.

With the help of hypophysis (or pituitary gland), the hypothalamus develops a connection between endocrine system and nervous system in the body. A number of medical conditions have been found associated with this part of the interbrain that may arise out of various factors, and include nutritious, infectious, neoplastic and inflammatory disorders that are manifested by severe symptoms in the victim. As these problem areas are located inside the human brain, the diagnosis and treatment is not easy. However, if identified at an early stage, the symptoms can be relieved through medication.

Hypothalamus can be distinguished into three structurally distinct parts, namely, anterior, middle and posterior regions. These regions are alternately known as the supraoptic, tuberal and mammillary, respectively. Some less anatomically distinct areas can also be found in this brain structure. All these parts are collectively responsible for the production of different essential hormones and chemical substances that control and regulate the functioning of various organs in your body.

It is also known as supraoptic region. As the very name suggests, the supraoptic division is located above the optic chiasm where the most prominent nuclei include paraventricular and supraoptic. Other less prominent nuclei are: preoptic, medial preoptic, anterior hypothalamic and suprachiasmatic. These nuclei are collectively involved in the secretion of hormones, including oxytocin, vasopressin (ADH), corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) and somatostatin. It is this region where some of the important body functions are accomplished, such as circadian rhythms, thermoregulation, panting, sweating and differential development between sexes.

Located at the level of tuber cinereum, the tuberal region is further divided into two parts: medial and lateral. Ventromedial nucleus, the largest and most prominent of the nuclei present in the region, is responsible for shaping and controlling eating habits. Some other functions, like the regulation of blood pressure, heart rate, satiety and gastrointestinal stimulation also fall under the domain of tuberal region.

The posterior component is composed of medial and lateral areas. Medial area contains two types of hypothalamic nuclei: mammillary and posterior. These nuclei control the functions, like memory, blood pressure, shivering, energy balance, feeding, sleep, arousal and learning.

The hypothalamic region in the posterior part of forebrain (diencephalon) initiates, facilitates and accomplishes a number of vital functions in the human body including hunger, circadian cycles, fatigue, sleep, thirst, attachment behaviors and parenting. The neurohormones (chemical substances of the nervous system) secreted by the organ are transferred to the pituitary gland that either inhibit or stimulate its secretary activities. Some of the vital functions of hypothalamus can be summarized as under:

Two important hormones are secreted by the hypothalamic region of the diencephalon, viz. anti-diuretic hormone (ADH or Vasopressin) and oxytocin. Having its role in the regulation of water content in the body, the release of ADH facilitates the absorption of water in the nephrons of kidney. Oxytocin, on the other hand, plays a role in the sexual reproduction in human beings and other mammals, particularly child birth and ejection of milk from mammary glands.

It controls the secretion of hormones from the hypophysis which is an important part of the brain and master secretory organ in your body. Pituitary is associated with the release of eight essential hormones in the body; two of which are synthesized by the hypothalamus, while the remaining six are produced locally. Some of the other endocrine and exocrine functions of hypothalamus include the control of autonomic nervous system, maintenance of homeostasis, balance of emotions, regulation of hunger & thirst and check over the thermostat of the body.

Malnutrition, inflammation, neoplasm, infection or any other condition of this structure not only adversely affects its functions but also causes severe symptoms in the victim. Such signs need to be addressed as soon as possible. Originating from the adjacent structures, like optic chiasm, hypophysis or optic nerves, the benign or malignant tumors spread to affect the organ and lead to hypothalamic neoplasms. The clinical manifestations of the disorder include loss of vision, precocious puberty, macrocephaly and developmental delay. The frequently recommended treatment measures of the tumors include radiations and surgical therapy.

Hypopituitarianism is another ailment of brain in which pituitary gland and hypothalamus are integrated with each other, thus inhibiting the hormonal secretions of hypophysis and disturbing all the vital functions of the body that are regulated by the chemical substances produced therein. In this case, your health care provider may suggest hormonal replacement therapy as the disease results in the hormonal insufficiency in the body.

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The Endocrine System: Hypothalamus and Pituitary

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Are you hot right now? Cold? Maybe you’re like Goldilocks and are just right. What about your height? Are you tall? Average? Short? Maybe your metabolism is lightning fast and you’re always hungry, or maybe it’s a bit slow and you stay full longer. All of theseregardless of which one you identify withare regulated by the endocrine system.

(Hypothalamus and pituitary, highlighted in blue)

I’m going to be throwing a lot of information at you, dear reader, so brace yourself!

Its no secret your brain is one busy placeneurons move at incredible speeds, synapses are constantly firing, blood is pumping, and glands are producing hormones. These glands, specifically the hypothalamus and pituitary, are working all the time to keep your body running at optimal performance.Every hormone the endocrine system releases follows a basic set-up: a signal is received, hormones are secreted, and the target cell undergoes changes to its basic functions.

The almond-sized hypothalamus is located below the thalamus and sits just above the brainstem. All vertebrate brains have a hypothalamus. Its primary function is to maintain homeostasis (stability of the internal environment) in the body.

The hypothalamus links the nervous and endocrine systems by way of the pituitary gland. Its function is to secrete releasing hormones and inhibiting hormones that stimulate or inhibit (like their names imply) production of hormones in the anterior pituitary. Specialized neuron clusters called neurosecretory cells in the hypothalamus produce the hormones Antidiuretic Hormone (ADH) and Oxytocin (OXT), and transport them to the pituitary, where they’re stored for later release.

Think of the hypothalamus as the pituitary’s older siblingit not only controls the actions of the pituitary but it secretes at least nine hormones to the pituitary’s seven.

Attached to the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland is a pea-sized, reddish-gray body that stores hormones from the hypothalamus and releases them into the bloodstream. The pituitary consists of an anterior lobe and a posterior lobe, each of which have distinct functions.

The anterior lobe (or adenophyophosis) secretes hormones that regulate a wide variety of bodily functions. There are five anterior pituitary cells that secrete seven hormones:

Somatotrophs

Secrete human growth hormone (hGH), aka somatotropin, which stimulates tissues to secrete hormones that stimulate body growth and regulate metabolism.

Gonadotrophs

Secrete follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), which both act on the gonads. They stimulate the secretion of estrogen and progesterone, maturation of egg cells in the ovaries, and stimulate sperm production and secretion of testosterone in the testes.

Lactotrophs

Secrete prolactin (PRL), which initiates milk production in the mammary glands.

Corticotrophs

Secrete adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which stimulates the adrenal cortex to secrete glucocorticoids (like cortisol). Also secretes melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH).

Thyrotrophs

Secrete thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which controls secretions of the thyroid gland.

This table represents the types of hormones secreted by the cells of the anterior pituitary.

Name

Target Area

Function

Human-growth hormone (hGH)

Tissues

Stimulates tissue growth in the liver, muscles, bones, as well as protein synthesis, tissue repair, and elevation of blood glucose levels.

Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)

Thyroid gland

Stimulates thyroid gland to secrete thyroid hormones.

Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)

Ovaries and testes (gonads)

Stimulates development of oocytes (immature egg cells) and secretion of estrogen in females; stimulates sperm production in the testes in males.

Luteinizing hormone (LH)

Ovaries and testes (gonads)

Stimulates secretion of estrogen and progesterone, including during ovulation, in females; stimulates testes to produce testosterone in males.

Prolactin (PRL)

Mammary glands

Stimulates milk production.

Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)

Adrenal cortex

Stimulates secretion of glucocorticoids (cortisol) by the adrenal cortex during the bodys response to stress.

Melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH)

Brain

When in excess, can cause darkening of the skin; may influence brain activity (its exact role unknownthere is very little MSH in humans).

While the anterior lobe shoulders most of the work in producing hormones, the posterior lobe stores and releases only two: oxytocin and antidiuretic hormone (ADH), or vasopressin.

Name

Trigger

Function

Oxytocin (OT), aka the “love” drug

Secretes in response to uterine distention and stimulation of the nipples.

Stimulates smooth muscle contractions of the uterus during childbirth, as well as milk ejection in the mammary glands.

Antidiuretic hormone (ADH), or vasopressin

Secretes in response to dehydration, blood loss, pain, stress; inhibitors of ADH secretion include high blood volume and alcohol.

Decreases urine volume to conserve water, decreases water loss through sweating, raises blood pressure by constricting arterioles.

Even though it’s very small, the pituitary gland isn’t free from ailmentnothing is completely foolproof, after all.

Most disorders of the pituitary glands are tumors, which are common in adults. These growths are not considered brain tumors, nor are they always malignant. In fact, they’re almost always benign in nature! There are two types of pituitary tumorssecretory and non-secretory. A secretory tumor produces too much of a hormone, while a non-secretory tumor does not. Regardless, if the tumor is big enough, it can hinder normal pituitary function. These tumors can be removed, or monitored and controlled with medication.

Problems caused by tumors fall into certain categories:

Hyposecretion: Too little of a hormone is produced, interfering in normal function.

Hypersecretion: Too much of a hormone is produced, interfering in normal function.

Mass effects: The tumor presses on the pituitary or other areas of the brain, causing pain, vision issues, or other problems.

While the pituitary and hypothalamus can run into the above issues, on the whole they work a balancing act on your body. So the next time you’re feeling juuuust right, you can thank the pituitary, hypothalamus, and all the other organs of the endocrine system.

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