The human brain is not an amorphous, homogeneous massBut there is a large number of structures and substructures with large differences from each other, which work with different neurotransmitters and have multiple functions.
While some of these brain structures are known to many people, such as the amygdala or the hippocampus, others are more unknown although they play an important role in regulating our behavior. For example, helping to regulate hormones and follow circadian rhythms. This is the case with the epithelium, Which we will talk about in this article.
What is the epithelium
The epithelium is a relatively small structure that is part of the diencephalon and which it can be found just above the thalamus and touching the roof of the third ventricle. It is a structure mainly related to the limbic system, being relevant in the management of instinct and emotions.
It is also associated with the neuroendocrine system via the pineal gland, one of the main structures that are part of the epithelium which is also part of this system. We are dealing with a structure with a wide range of connections with other regions of the brain, including the olfactory system (also related to the perception and reaction to smells) and many other structures of the brain.
Parts of the epithelium
The epithelium is made up of a set of structures of great importance to human beings. Besides the medullary striae, nerve fibers that establish connections with other regions of the brain, we can find two large structures, which are the most relevant and the best known of the epithelium.
Epiphysis or pineal gland
The best-known structure of the epithelium is the pineal gland. This is an element known since antiquity (precisely the first information found in this regard dates from the third century BC), suggesting to Descartes the existence in her of animal spirits linked to emotions.
Innervated by the autonomic nervous system and connected to other nuclei such as the septals, the pineal gland is an important regulatory brain structure of the neuroendocrine system, Participate in functions such as energy regulation and sexuality.
One of the most important aspects of the pineal gland is the fact that it is responsible for the secretion of melatonin from serotonin, when illumination is nonexistent or very low. In this way, the epiphysis is essential in regulation of circadian rhythms and sleep and wakefulness.
It is also involved in the synthesis of endorphins and sex hormones such as the hormone luteneizante, as well as in sexual growth and maturation (which slows down its activity).
Habenula or habenular nuclei
In addition to the pineal gland, the other major structure of the epithelium is the habenula or habenular nuclei (because there are actually two structures). It is attached to the above and is of great relevance when receiving and send connections limbic system nuclei and reticular formation. Habenular nuclei are elements which, unlike epiphyses, do not have endocrine functions.
It largely acts as a bridge between various areas of the brain (including in addition to the above the thalamic nuclei, the forebrain or the preoptic area) but precisely because of these connections also seems to be involved in the motivation not to act. , fear and negative assessments of events similar to those which may have harmed us in the past. Finally, they are also related to the ability to providing emotional information to smells.
As we have stated above, although the epithelium is not particularly well known, its existence and functioning in the brain is of great importance to humans, having important functions for our adaptation and survival. .
As part of the limbic system, participates in the management of emotion and motivation. In this regard, you can explore its role in different disorders such as depression or anticipatory anxiety.
One of these functions is the management of circadian rhythms, our body clock which regulates the hours of the day that we have and uses more or less energy. In this sense, it is also very important in the management of sleep, as the pineal gland present in the epithelium reacts to the absence of light producing melatonin and decreasing energy levels, facilitating sleep.
It also participates in sexual growth and maturation, Adjustment of the biological rate at which we develop and transform into adults. Finally, their links with the olfactory pathways make them relate to the ability to perceive smells and give them emotional meaning.
- Kandel, ER; Schwartz, JH and Jessell, TM (2001). Principles of neuroscience. Fourth edition. McGraw-Hill Inter-American. Madrid.