What is the Difference Between Hippocampus and Hypothalamus

The main difference between hippocampus and hypothalamus is that the hippocampus regulates emotion, spacial recognition, learning, and memory, whereas the hypothalamus regulates metabolic processes and controls body temperature, fatigue, thirst, sleep, circadian rhythms, behavior, and hunger.

The brain is the most complex part of the human body. It is made of fat and a combination of water, salts, carbohydrates, and proteins. The brain is not only a muscle. In fact, it contains nerves, including neurons, glial cells, and blood vessels. It also controls many important functions, including emotion, memory, vision, temperature, breathing, touch, etc. There are different regions in the brain performing different functions. Some examples of such brain parts are the cerebrum, cerebellum, brain stem, pituitary, hypothalamus, and hippocampus.

Key Areas Covered  

1. What is Hippocampus
     – Definition, Structure, Function
2. What is Hypothalamus
     – Definition, Structure, Function
3. Difference Between Hippocampus and Hypothalamus
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Brain, Hippocampus, Hypothalamus

Difference Between Hippocampus and Hypothalamus - Comparison Summary

What is the Hippocampus

Hippocampus is a vital part of the brain of vertebrates. It is located in the medial temporal lobes of the cerebrum. It is part of a larger structure of the temporal lobe called hippocampal formation. This hippocampal formation has three main parts, namely the hippocampus, dentate gyrus, and subiculum. Hippocampus is a bilaminar grey matter structure.

The elongated hippocampus structures lie along the longitudinal axis of the brain. It extends from the amygdala anteriorly and tapers when it comes to the posterior side. Its surface has three parts: head, body, and tail. There are groves in the head of the hippocampus which resemble a paw. Hence, we call it the pes hippocampus. The hippocampus also consists of two interlocking grey matter folds: the cornu ammonis (hippocampus proper) and the dentate gyrus. In fact, it has the shape of a sea horse in the axial plane. There are two hippocampi on the two sides of the brain.

Compare Hippocampus and Hypothalamus - What's the difference?

Functions of Hippocampus

This hippocampus has many functions. The most common functions of the hippocampus are learning and memory. These are the most well-organized functions of the hippocampus. It is also associated with regulating emotions, hormonal activity, autonomic activity, and motivation. Moreover, the hippocampus exhibits long-term potentiation. The hippocampus receives and consolidates information, which allows the establishment of long-term memories. Another role associated with the hippocampus is spacial memory.

Hippocampus also has a role in mediating aggression and rage. This activity depends on the region of the structure that is stimulated. For example, the predatory or fight or flight behavior is stimulated by the region close to the amygdala. The region close to the septal pole suppresses this behavior.

In addition, the hippocampus plays a role in hormonal regulation and endocrine functions. It has also been found that it is associated with providing feedback to the pituitary gland through the hypothalamic connections.

What is the Hypothalamus

Hypothalamus is a part of the brain acting as the body’s smart control coordinating center. It links the endocrine system and the nervous system. Hypothalamus lies below the thalamus and makes up the floor of the third cerebral ventricle. It takes the shape of a small cone. Moreover, the hypothalamus projects outwards from the brain and ends in the pituitary stalk. The posterior part of the hypothalamus contains the nerve endings of many neurosecretory cells. Besides, the hypothalamus is a bilateral collection of nuclei divided into three zones.

Hippocampus vs Hypothalamus

Hypothalamus is mainly associated with homeostasis. This involves controlling the endocrine, autonomic, and somatic behavior. It acts as a “smart control coordinating system” of the body. Hypothalamus helps to regulate and manage mood, hunger, childbirth, breast milk production, growth, weight control, thirst, sex drive, sleep, body temperature, blood pressure, and a sense of fullness when eating. Furthermore, the hypothalamus balances the conditions in the body by influencing the autonomic nervous system or by managing hormones. It also makes some hormones itself that are stored in other regions. Additionally, it sends signals to the pituitary gland.

Difference Between Hippocampus and Hypothalamus

Definition

Hippocampus is a vital part of the brain located in the medial temporal lobes of the cerebrum. At the same time, the hypothalamus is a part of the brain acting as the body’s smart control coordinating center.

Location

Hippocampus is located in the medial temporal lobes of the cerebrum, whereas the hypothalamus is located below the thalamus and ends in a pituitary stalk.

Paired Nature

There are two hippocampi located on the two sides of the brain, while there is only one hypothalamus located in the brain.

Functions

The main function of the hippocampus involves learning and memory. It also helps regulate emotions, hormonal activity, autonomic activity, endocrine functions, motivation, and mediating aggression and rage. However, the main function of the hypothalamus is homeostasis. It regulates mood, hunger, childbirth, breast milk production, growth, weight control, thirst, sex drive, sleep, body temperature, blood pressure, and sense of fullness when eating.

Conclusion

In brief, the brain is a complex structure located in the human body. It performs several different functions. The brain has several different regions depending on the anatomical structure and functions. The hippocampus and hypothalamus are two such structures of the brain. The main difference between hippocampus and hypothalamus is that the hippocampus regulates emotion, spacial recognition, learning, and memory, whereas the hypothalamus regulates metabolic processes and controls body temperature, fatigue, thirst, sleep, circadian rhythms, behaviors, and hunger.

Reference:

1. “Hypothalamus.” Cleaveland Clinic.
2. “Hippocampus in health and disease: An overview.” PubChem. National Library of Medicine.

Image Courtesy:

1. “1806 The Hypothalamus-Pituitary Complex” By OpenStax College – Anatomy & Physiology, Connexions Web site. , Jun 19, 2013. (CC BY 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Illustration of brain regions” By NIH Image Gallery (Public Domain) via Flickr

About the Author: Hasini A

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