The brain is one of the greatest mysteries of science, there is still much to discover about this wonderful organ that gives us ideas, personality, makes us talk, think and be who we are.

However, today we will not talk about all regions of the brain, but we will analyze in depth one of the most fascinating regions of the brain: the diencephalon.

The diencephalon is a small part of the brain that is hidden from view when looking at the outside of the brain. This region is divided into four parts: the epithalamus, thalamus, subthalamus and hypothalamus.

Here’s everything you need to know about this fascinating region of the brain.

What is the diencephalon?

The diencephalon is located above the brainstem, between the two cerebral hemispheres. The only visible part of the diencephalon is the lowest part of the hypothalamus.

According to Science Directthe diencephalon is one of the three main parts of the forebrain (anterior portion of the brain), the other two being the telencephalon and hypothalamus.

The diencephalon is made up of three units defined by gene expression. Despite being a small part of the central nervous system, in terms of mass, the diencephalon serves essential functions in brain and body health.

The diencephalon is a structure made up mostly of gray matter that is located between the cerebral hemispheres. It is as if the diencephalon were the nucleus of the brain.

Main functions of the diencephalon

We all know that the brain is responsible for processing sensory information. However, before it reaches the brain, this information must first pass through the diencephalon.

The main function of the diencephalon is to transmit the information obtained by the senses through the brain. In addition, it also helps control the endocrine and autonomic functions of the body.

The diencephalon works in conjunction with the cerebellum to support optimal control of motor and other functions. Here we mention the primary functions of this important body:

direct sensory impulses in the body

The diencephalon is the integrating epicenter of most sensory, motor, and limbic impulses.

This is because one of the main tasks of the diencephalon is to direct the body’s sensory impulses, since it transmits sensory information in the central nervous system. That is, it helps send the order to the brain to move the muscles.

Control autonomous function

The main function of the diencephalon is to transmit sensory information through the central nervous system. In addition, it helps the brain to interpret signals from the nervous system and control autonomic function.

The autonomic function is the part of the nervous system that is responsible for regulating the involuntary visceral functions of the organism. One of its main characteristics is the speed and intensity with which it can change visceral functions.

Motor Control Function

While each of the components of the diencephalon has specialized functions that are an integral part of life, it acts as a primary transmitter and processing center for sensory information and autonomic and motor control.

Regulate endocrine activity

Inside the diencephalon is the pineal gland, a small pineapple-shaped gland.

It is an important endocrine gland, responsible for secreting melatonin in response to darkness, among other hormones that have a major regulatory influence on many endocrine organs, including the thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal glands, and gonads.

Furthermore, the hypothalamus, a part of the diencephalon, is closely associated with the pituitary gland which controls the functioning of all the glands of the endocrine system.

Control the activity of visceral organs

The hypothalamus, one of the most important parts of the diencephalon, is the visceral control center, as it regulates the functions of all internal organs.

Its function is to maintain the homeostasis of the body. Because of its key role in maintaining body function, it is sometimes referred to as the brain within the brain.

Regulate the perception of touch

One of the main functions of this region of the brain is to regulate the perception of touch, pain, temperature, vibration, proprioception (or kinesthesia, the sense through which we perceive the position and movement of the body), and the weight.

Develop long-term memory

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology showed that declarative memory involves conscious memory of facts and events.

Medial temporal lobe and diencephalon structures are essential in gaining new declarative memories (long-term memory), and these memory traces are ultimately stored in specific regions of the cerebral cortex.

Maintain alertness

The diencephalon has the ability to control voluntary movements, states of alertness and wakefulness, subjectivity, and even personality.

The diencephalon is a processing complex that manages and conditions physiological responses, thus allowing us to stay alert.

Characteristics of the diencephalon

The diencephalon varies in the degree of elaboration of its various components. The diencephalon is made up of various brain structures, which we will see in detail later.

It is made up of several structures.

The diencephalon is one of the most complex parts of our brain as it is made up of four main components: the thalamus, the subthalamus, the hypothalamus and the epithalamus.

It is a set of nuclei of gray matter

The brain stem is the structure that connects the cerebrum from the cerebrum to the spinal cord and cerebellum. Thus, it is made up of four sections in descending order: diencephalon and midbrain, pons, and medulla oblongata.

The brain stem contains a lot of white and gray matter. The gray matter within the brainstem are nerve cell bodies (neurons) and form many important brainstem nuclei.

Contains fascicles of white matter

The diencephalon is embedded between the two cerebral hemispheres and is composed mostly of white matter, which performs vital functions.

White matter is the tissue through which messages pass between different areas of gray matter within the central nervous system. The white matter is white because of the fatty substance (myelin) that surrounds the nerve fibers (axons).

Located between the cerebral hemispheres and the brainstem

According to Springer , the diencephalon is located at the end of the brain stem. It is bounded by the posterior branch of the internal capsule and divided in the midline by the third ventricle.

This means that it is literally trapped between the two hemispheres of the brain (the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere) and between the brain stem. That is why it is not visible from the outside, it is as if it were literally the nucleus of our brain.

Carries fibers that travel to the cerebral cortex

The major regions of the adult brain are the diencephalon, brainstem, cerebellum, and cerebrum.

The diencephalon carries sensory information between brain regions. The brain stem controls the messages sent from the brain to the body, as well as controlling basic functions like breathing and more.

It constitutes 2% of the total weight of the central nervous system.

The nervous system of an adult only weighs around 2 kg, which corresponds to only 3% of body weight, the nervous system consists of a complex network packed with billions of neurons and cells.

The diencephalon, on the other hand, weighs only about 2 percent of the weight of the central nervous system. However, the diencephalon is of tremendous and extremely important functional importance.

Parts of the diencephalon

The brain can be subdivided by many classification systems. One of them is the one that refers to the duality of the brain is thediencephalonthat occupies the central region of the brain. The diencephalon is a complex region that is made up of the following parts:


The thalamus, which comes from a Greek word meaning “chamber,” is a large mass of gray matter located in the dorsal part of the diencephalon.

The thalamus has several functions, for example, the transmission of sensory signals, including motor signals to the cerebral cortex, and consciousness, sleep, and alertness.

On the other hand, anatomically, it is a symmetrical structure that is divided into two halves: left and right.


The hypothalamus is a small region of the brain, located at the base of the brain, near the pituitary gland.

Although very small, the hypothalamus plays a crucial role in many important functions, including: releasing hormones, regulating body temperature, maintaining daily physiological cycles, controlling appetite, managing sexual behavior, and regulating emotional responses, among others. others.


The epithalamus is a posterior segment of the diencephalon. The epithalamus acts as a kind of connector between the limbic system and other parts of the brain.

Some of its functions include the secretion of melatonin and the regulation of motor pathways and emotions.


The subthalamus is linked to body movement and has a large number of connections with different brain regions. This structure of the diencephalon is located between the brainstem and the cerebral hemispheres.

The subthalamus is responsible for promoting sexuality, food and water intake, and hydration maintenance along with cardiovascular activity.


The pituitary gland is a pea-sized endocrine gland that regulates various physiological processes (including stress, growth, reproduction, and lactation).

The hormones secreted by this gland help control growth, blood pressure, energy, the sexual organs, the thyroid gland, and metabolism, as well as some aspects of pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, the concentration of water and salt in the body. kidneys, temperature regulation, and pain relief.

retina and optic nerve

The optic nerve is in charge of connecting the eye with the brain. The optic nerve carries the impulses formed by the retina.

These impulses are sent through the optic nerve to the brain, which interprets them as images.

third ventricle

The third ventricle is a cavity of the thalamus and diencephalon. The third ventricle is one of the four ventricles of the brain that communicate with each other.

Like the other ventricles of the brain, it is filled with cerebrospinal fluid, which helps protect the brain from injury and helps transport nutrients and waste.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *