Connection lost. Please refresh the page.
Get help How to study Login Register


Learning objectives

After completing this study unit you will be able to: 

  1. Understand the location of the hypothalamus.
  2. Name the important relations of the hypothalamus.
  3. Learn the different anatomical divisions of the hypothalamus, their nuclei and functions.

Watch video

The hypothalamus is a small area of the brain which forms the ventral/inferior part of the diencephalon, located anterior/rostral and inferior/ventral to the thalamus. Although it weighs only about 4 g, it controls a wide range of vital functions of the human body (e.g. homeostasis, energy consumption, hunger, awareness etc...) via its connections with the endocrine system, autonomic nervous system and limbic system. It contributes to the formation of the walls and the floor of the third ventricle.

The neuronal bodies of the hypothalamus are organized into nuclei that are responsible for the specific functions of the hypothalamus. In order to learn those nuclei, it’s easier to divide the hypothalamus into regions and group them together. The hypothalamus can be divided into regions using both the coronal and the sagittal planes. In the coronal plane, there are three divisions or zones:

  • Periventricular zone of the hypothalamus, which is the most medial and it’s close to the third ventricle; 
  • Medial zone of the hypothalamus, which is the most nuclei-dense zone;
  • Lateral zone of the hypothalamus.

In contrast, in the sagittal plane, there are four subdivisions (areas) that include: 

  • The preoptic area;
  • The anterior (chiasmatic) hypothalamic area;
  • The intermediate (tuberal) hypothalamic area;
  • The posterior (mammillary) hypothalamic area.

Watch the following video and learn which nuclei are located in those regions, their connections and functions.

Take a quiz

Now that you have watched the videos about the hypothalamus, solidify your knowledge by taking our quiz.

Try our custom quiz and choose the topics that you want to learn. For example you can pick all the subcortical structures and create your own quiz. You can also save it for later!

Browse atlas

Take a closer look at the hypothalamus in the gallery below. 


Key facts about the hypothalamus
Definition The hypothalamus is a paired structure of the diencephalon that has many vital functions through its connections to the endocrine, autonomic nervous and limbic systems
Zones (coronal plane) Periventricular zone, medial zone, lateral zone
Areas (sagittal plane) Preoptic area, anterior hypothalamic (chiasmatic), intermediate (tuberal) and the posterior hypothalamic area (mammillary)
Nuclei Preoptic area: Preoptic nucleus, periventricular nuclei, medial preoptic nucleus, lateral preoptic nucleus
Supraoptic area:
Suprachiasmatic nucleus, periventricular nuclei, anterior hypothalamic nucleus, paraventricular nucleus, supraoptic nucleus, lateral hypothalamic nucleus
Intermediate area:
Arcuate nucleus, dorsomedial nucleus, ventromedial nucleus, lateral tuberal nuclei
Posterior area
: Mammillary nuclei, posterior hypothalamic nuclei, lateral hypothalamic nucleus
Main functions Control of the endocrine system, regulation of homeostasis, energy consumption, appetite, sleep-awareness

Well done!

Related articles

Continue your learning

Register now and grab your free ultimate anatomy study guide!