URL of this page: //medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002380.htm


The hypothalamus is an area of the brain that produces hormones that control:

  • Body temperature
  • Hunger
  • Mood
  • Release of hormones from many glands, especially the pituitary gland
  • Sex drive
  • Sleep
  • Thirst
  • Heart rate



Hypothalamic dysfunction can occur as a result of diseases, including:

  • Genetic causes (often present at birth or during childhood)
  • Injury as a result of trauma, surgery or radiation
  • Infection or inflammation


Because the hypothalamus controls so many different functions, hypothalamic disease can have many different symptoms, depending on the cause. The most common symptoms are:

  • Increased appetite and rapid weight gain
  • Extreme thirst and frequent urination (diabetes insipidus)
  • Low body temperature
  • Slow heart rate


Giustina A, Braunstein GD. Hypothalamic syndromes. In: Jameson JL, De Groot LJ, de Kretser DM, et al, eds. Endocrinology: Adult and Pediatric. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 10.

Hall JE. Pituitary hormones and their control by the hypothalamus. In: Hall JE, ed. Guyton and Hall Textbook of Medical Physiology. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 76.

Review Date 10/28/2015

Updated by: Brent Wisse, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Nutrition, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.