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Region of the brain containing a control centre for many autonomic-nervous-system functions. Its complex interaction with the pituitary gland makes it an important part of the endocrine system. As a critical link between the body's two control systems, the hypothalamus regulates homeostasis. Nervous and hormonal pathways connect it with the pituitary, which it stimulates to release various hormones. The hypothalamus influences food intake, weight regulation, fluid intake and balance, thirst, body heat, and the sleep cycle. Disorders can produce pituitary dysfunction, diabetes insipidus, insomnia, and temperature fluctuations.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on hypothalamus, visit Britannica.com.