PublicationsOrganization of circadian functions: interaction with the body.
The hypothalamus integrates information from the brain and the body; this activity is essential for survival of the individual (adaptation to the environment) and the species (reproduction). As a result, countless functions are regulated by neuroendocrine and autonomic hypothalamic processes in concert with the appropriate behaviour that is mediated by neuronal influences on other brain areas. In the current chapter attention will be focussed on fundamental hypothalamic systems that control metabolism, circulation and the immune system. Herein a system is defined as a physiological and anatomical functional unit, responsible for the organisation of one of these functions. Interestingly probably because these systems are essential for survival, their function is highly dependent on each other’s performance and often shares same hypothalamic structures. The functioning of these systems is strongly influenced by (environmental) factors such as the time of the day, stress and sensory autonomic feedback and by circulating hormones. In order to get insight in the mechanisms of hypothalamic integration we have focussed on the influence of the biological clock; the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) on processes that are organized by and in the hypothalamus. The SCN imposes its rhythm onto the body via three different routes of communication: 1.Via the secretion of hormones; 2. via the parasympathetic and 3.via the sympathetic autonomous nervous system. The SCN uses separate connections via either the sympathetic or via the parasympathetic system not only to prepare the body for the coming change in activity cycle but also to prepare the body and its organs for the hormones that are associated with such change. Up till now relatively little attention has been given to the question how peripheral information might be transmitted back to the SCN. Apart from light and melatonin little is known about other systems from the periphery that may provide information to the SCN. In this chapter attention will be paid to e.g. the role of the circumventricular organs in passing info to the SCN. Herein especially the role of the arcuate nucleus (ARC) will be highlighted. The ARC is crucial in the maintenance of energy homeostasis as an integrator of long- and short-term hunger and satiety signals. Receptors for metabolic hormones like insulin, leptin and ghrelin allow the ARC to sense information from the periphery and signal it to the central nervous system. Neuroanatomical tracing studies using injections of a retrograde and anterograde tracer into the ARC and SCN showed a reciprocal connection between the ARC and the SCN which is used to transmit feeding related signals to the SCN. The implications of multiple inputs and outputs of the SCN to the body will be discussed in relation with metabolic functions.