The Hypothalamus

Lesson 6

The hypothalamus is a portion of the brain beneath the thalamus. It may be helpful to divide this structure into four quadrants and recognize each portion is responsible for a differentmetabolic function. These functions are important to maintain homeostasisor a constant internal electrical and chemical environment. One quadrant controls our salt and water balance. Another quadrant controls our fuel or food needs. The third quadrantregulates temperature. The last quadrant controls reproductive drive.

It is imperative to recognize that the hypothalamus creates strong drives or impulses to maintain a constant internal balance. You recognize this when you are very thirsty, or very hungry or too hot or too cold. When these impulses arise your behavior is driven to obtain water, or food or the appropriate activity to correct your temperature. As you mature, you'll begin to recognize behaviors designed to satisfy a reproductive drive. It is important to understand that these internal impulses and your internal environment effect your behavior. For example, if you are really thirsty and hungry and overheated and you are asked to straighten up your room, I think we both know what your response would be. If you are asked to straighten up your room and your internal environment was just fine, you might just do it. Remember, although these signals are coming from inside you, they are signals and not you or your self.

Great difficulties can arise when you have conflicting impulses. For example, if you find yourself really thirsty your brain will drive you to get up to get a drink. But if you're watching the championship game and there is only 30 seconds left you do not want to get up. This becomes an approach/avoid conflict. There is often not a correct answer to such conflicts but rather a best answer.

Keep in mind long-term consequences. In the situation above, you will not die of thirst over the next several minutes and you can probably watch the end of the game. When those reproductive drives kick in, watch out for long-term consequences.