Your hypothalamus is integral in your emotional response.
Your emotions are mediated in a part of the brain called the limbic system and that includes your hypothalamus.
The limbic system is a complex set of interconnected brain areas that integrate information about sensory stimuli – what you see, smell, taste, touch, and feel.
Your hypothalamus integrates with the limbic system to regulate your memories and your cognitive plans to actually produce emotional learning and emotional experience.
The hypothalamus works with the amagdala, which recognizes potential threats and is integral in the formation of fear-based emotions.
Your hypothalamus works with the thalamus which is the sensory relay center.
Your hypothalamus works with the hippocampus which is your emotional processing center.
And then, of course, your hypothalamus activates your sympathetic nervous system to express emotion.
The lateral parts the side parts of your hypothalamus are involved in emotions such as pleasure and rage, while the middle part of your hypothalamus is associated with aversion and displeasure, and a tendency to laugh loudly and uncontrollably. Your hypothalamus controls your expression or symptomatic manifestations of emotions.
Studies done in the last century allowed us to see the hypothalamic response to emotions. One of those studies was called the sham rage experiment where researchers actually stimulated parts of the hypothalamus of cats. That early research established that the hypothalamus has a prominent role in coordinating your emotional behavior. Researchers found that stimulating different parts of the hypothalamus produced characteristic reactions that appear to correspond to specific emotional states. For example, if you stimulate the lateral hypothalamus it causes autonomic and somatic responses, meaning nervous and body symptoms that are consistent with anger like increased blood pressure, raising of the body hair, and pupillary constriction.
Your hypothalamus facilitates the coordination of your peripheral emotional responses – or how your body responds.
It helps to direct the more complex interactions that are involved in your emotional drives and your emotional behaviors.
I want you to think of emotions in the range of love to fear. So everything that’s a positive emotion we’ll put on the love side and everything that’s a fearful emotion we’ll put on the fear side of the emotional spectrum. So emotions on the love side are like gratitude, compassion, and empathy and things on the fear side are like anger, rage, and disappointment.
Fear is initiated in the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that is basic survival instincts. When a potential danger is perceived, the amygdala then stimulates the hypothalamic response to get away from danger.
Love is controlled by the hypothalamus.
The biochemistry of love directs lust, attraction, and attachment. And it’s all based in your hypothalamus.
Lust is driven by testosterone and estrogen. Both hormones are controlled by your hypothalamus.
Attraction is created by dopamine, which gets converted into norepinephrine. Dopamine is produced by your hypothalamus and high levels of dopamine and norepinephrine decrease brain serotonin, or your ability to control your impulses.
Attachment is mediated by oxytocin which is a hypothalamic hormone. Oxytocin is known as the cuddle hormone or the bonding hormone.
One of the love emotions is gratitude. We can map gratitude in the brain with EEGs and MRIs. Gratitude seems to begin in your frontal cortex. But immediately there’s a release of oxytocin by your hypothalamus which makes you want to bond. Gratitude can be really healing for your brain.
Now, sadness, I would put it somewhere between love and fear. Usually, sadness is created because you’ve lost something you love or were attracted to or attached to. The feeling of sadness shows up in our limbic system and our cortex. These parts of the brain trigger the hypothalamus to respond accordingly.
So, your hypothalamus does help to control your emotions, particularly your emotional behavior or your emotional response.
Whether you will laugh, or you will cry, or you’ll get rageful. Your hypothalamus controls your physical responses to emotion like your heart rate and goose bumps.
It’s critical that you keep your hypothalamus healthy and supported. Since your hypothalamus helps to control your emotions, it is really important that you give your hypothalamus the support it needs.
Support your hypothalamus with Genesis Gold®.
If you have any questions about your hypothalamus and how it effects your emotions, I’d love for you to join me in our Hormone Support Group, which you can access through our free Hormone Reboot Training. Living with stress is not easy, but there are ways to handle it better and heal.