Interconnections between the neuroendocrine hypothalamus and the central autonomic system. Geoffrey Harris Memorial Lecture, Kitakyushu, Japan, October 1998

Front Neuroendocrinol. 1999 Oct;20(4):270-95. doi: 10.1006/frne.1999.0186.


Tract-tracing techniques in combination with immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization were used in intact and operated rats (hypothalamic lesions, transections of neuronal pathways) to localize and characterize neuronal connections between the hypothalamus and autonomic centers. Viscerosensory and somatosensory signals which relay in the spinal cord and the medulla oblongata reach the hypothalamus through various catecholaminergic and noncatecholaminergic neuronal pathways. Vice versa, the hypothalamus influences autonomic activities through humoral and neurohumoral pathways. Descending hypothalamic efferents carry feedback signals to viscerosensory and brainstem catecholaminergic neurons and regulatory inputs to parasympathetic (dorsal vagal nucleus) and sympathetic (thoracolumbar intermediolateral cell column) preganglionic neurons. These fibers arise mainly from neurons of the paraventricular, arcuate, perifornical, and dorsomedial nuclei and the lateral hypothalamus. The major neuroanatomical observations are the following: (1) pathways between the hypothalamus and autonomic centers are bidirectional: the ascending and descending fibers may use the same avenues; (2) the descending axons are mainly peptidergic (CRF, vasopressin, oxytocin, somatostatin, enkephalin, POMC, and cANP), while the ascending fibers are both peptidergic (enkephalin, NPY, neurotensin, dynorphins) and catecholaminergic; (3) descending hypothalamic axons terminate directly on the sensory, preganglionic, and catecholaminergic neurons in the medulla and the spinal cord; (4) hypothalamic projections to the autonomic centers are always bilateral; (5) while medullary autonomic and catecholaminergic fibers innervate hypothalamic neurons directly, spinohypothalamic axons are relayed on neurons in the lateral hypothalamus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology*
  • Central Nervous System / physiology*
  • Hypothalamus / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurosecretory Systems / physiology*