Median eminence

Last updated
Median eminence
Median eminence is 'ME', at bottom-center, in light-green
Latin eminentia mediana hypothalami
MeSH D008473
NeuroNames 402
NeuroLex ID birnlex_925
TA A14.1.08.409
FMA 74634
Anatomical terms of neuroanatomy

The median eminence, part of the inferior boundary of the hypothalamus in the brain, is attached to the infundibulum. The median eminence is a small swelling on the tuber cinereum, posterior to and atop the pituitary stalk; it lies in the area roughly bounded on its posterolateral region by the cerebral peduncles, and on its anterolateral region by the optic chiasm.

As one of the seven areas of the brain devoid of a blood–brain barrier, [1] the median eminence is a circumventricular organ having permeable capillaries. [2] [3] [4] [5] Its main function is as a gateway for release of hypothalamic hormones, [6] although it does share contiguous perivascular spaces with the adjacent hypothalamic arcuate nucleus, indicating a potential sensory role. [3] [7]


The median eminence is a part of the hypothalamus from which regulatory hormones are released. [1] [6] It is integral to the hypophyseal portal system, which connects the hypothalamus with the pituitary gland. The pars nervosa (part of the posterior pituitary gland) is continuous with the median eminence of the hypothalamus via the infundibular stalk. Parvocellular neurons from the hypothalamus terminate in the median eminence of the hypothalamus.

The median eminence is the structure where secretions of the hypothalamus (releasing and inhibiting regulatory hormones, known as "hypophysiotropic hormones") collect before entering the portal system emptying into the general circulation. [1] [6] Such hypophysiotropic hormones include: CRF (corticotropin-releasing factor), GnRH (gonadotropin-releasing hormone), TRH (thyrotropin-releasing hormone), GHRH (growth hormone-releasing hormone), and DA (dopamine). [6] These hypophysiotropic hormones stimulate or inhibit the release of hormones from the anterior pituitary. [6] Further, anatomical evidence exists for bidirectional communication between the median eminence and the arcuate and ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus. [3] [7]

Related Research Articles

Pituitary gland Endocrine gland at the base of the brain

In vertebrate anatomy, the pituitary gland, or hypophysis, is an endocrine gland, about the size of a pea and weighing 0.5 grams (0.018 oz) in humans. It is a protrusion off the bottom of the hypothalamus at the base of the brain. The hypophysis rests upon the hypophysial fossa of the sphenoid bone in the center of the middle cranial fossa and is surrounded by a small bony cavity covered by a dural fold. The anterior pituitary is a lobe of the gland that regulates several physiological processes. The intermediate lobe synthesizes and secretes melanocyte-stimulating hormone. The posterior pituitary is a lobe of the gland that is functionally connected to the hypothalamus by the median eminence via a small tube called the pituitary stalk.

Hypothalamus Area of the brain below the thalamus

The hypothalamus is a portion of the brain that contains a number of small nuclei with a variety of functions. One of the most important functions of the hypothalamus is to link the nervous system to the endocrine system via the pituitary gland. The hypothalamus is located below the thalamus and is part of the limbic system. In the terminology of neuroanatomy, it forms the ventral part of the diencephalon. All vertebrate brains contain a hypothalamus. In humans, it is the size of an almond. The hypothalamus is responsible for the regulation of certain metabolic processes and other activities of the autonomic nervous system. It synthesizes and secretes certain neurohormones, called releasing hormones or hypothalamic hormones, and these in turn stimulate or inhibit the secretion of hormones from the pituitary gland. The hypothalamus controls body temperature, hunger, important aspects of parenting and attachment behaviours, thirst, fatigue, sleep, and circadian rhythms. The hypothalamus derives its name from Greek ὑπό, under and θάλαμος, chamber.

Blood–brain barrier Semipermeable capillary border that allows selective passage of blood constituents into the brain

The blood–brain barrier (BBB) is a highly selective semipermeable border of endothelial cells that prevents solutes in the circulating blood from non-selectively crossing into the extracellular fluid of the central nervous system where neurons reside. The blood-brain barrier is formed by endothelial cells of the capillary wall, astrocyte end-feet ensheathing the capillary, and pericytes embedded in the capillary basement membrane. This system allows the passage of some molecules by passive diffusion, as well as the selective transport of various nutrients, ions, organic anions, and macromolecules such as glucose, water and amino acids that are crucial to neural function.

Thyrotropin-releasing hormone hormone

Thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), is a hypophysiotropic hormone, produced by neurons in the hypothalamus, that stimulates the release of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and prolactin from the anterior pituitary.

Third ventricle Ventricle of the brain located between the two thalami

The third ventricle is one of four connected fluid-filled cavities comprising the ventricular system within the mammalian brain. It is a median cleft in the diencephalon between the two thalami, and is filled with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

Posterior pituitary Posterior lobe of the pituitary gland

The posterior pituitary is the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland which is part of the endocrine system. The posterior pituitary is not glandular as is the anterior pituitary. Instead, it is largely a collection of axonal projections from the hypothalamus that terminate behind the anterior pituitary, and serve as a site for the secretion of neurohypophysial hormones directly into the blood. The hypothalamic–neurohypophyseal system is composed of the hypothalamus, posterior pituitary, and these axonal projections.

Paraventricular nucleus of hypothalamus

The paraventricular nucleus is a nucleus in the hypothalamus. It is a group of neurons that can be activated by physiological changes including stress. Many PVN neurons project directly to the posterior pituitary where they release oxytocin into the general circulation. The supraoptic nucleus releases vasopressin. Both the PVN and the supraoptic nucleus do produce small amounts of the other hormone, ADH and Oxytocin respectively. Other PVN neurons control various anterior pituitary functions, while still others directly regulate appetite and autonomic functions in the brainstem and spinal cord.

Tuberoinfundibular pathway

The tuberoinfundibular pathway refers to a population of dopamine neurons that project from the arcuate nucleus in the tuberal region of the hypothalamus to the median eminence. It is one of the four major dopamine pathways in the brain. Dopamine released at this site inhibits the secretion of prolactin from anterior pituitary gland lactotrophs by binding to D2 receptors.

Arcuate nucleus

The arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus is an aggregation of neurons in the mediobasal hypothalamus, adjacent to the third ventricle and the median eminence. The arcuate nucleus includes several important and diverse populations of neurons that help mediate different neuroendocrine and physiological functions, including neuroendocrine neurons, centrally projecting neurons, and astrocytes. The populations of neurons found in the arcuate nucleus are based on the hormones they secrete or interact with and are responsible for hypothalamic function, such as regulating hormones released from the pituitary gland or secreting their own hormones. Neurons in this region are also responsible for integrating information and providing inputs to other nuclei in the hypothalamus or inputs to areas outside this region of the brain. These neurons, generated from the ventral part of the periventricular epithelium during embryonic development, locate dorsally in the hypothalamus, becoming part of the ventromedial hypothalamic region. The function of the arcuate nucleus relies on its diversity of neurons, but its central role is involved in homeostasis. The arcuate nucleus provides many physiological roles involved in feeding, metabolism, fertility, and cardiovascular regulation.

A neurohormone is any hormone produced and released by neuroendocrine cells into the blood. By definition of being hormones, they are secreted into the circulation for systemic effect, but they can also have a role of neurotransmitter or other roles such as autocrine (self) or paracrine (local) messenger.

Neuroendocrine cells are cells that receive neuronal input and, as a consequence of this input, release message molecules (hormones) into the blood. In this way they bring about an integration between the nervous system and the endocrine system, a process known as neuroendocrine integration. An example of a neuroendocrine cell is a cell of the adrenal medulla, which releases adrenaline to the blood. The adrenal medullary cells are controlled by the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system. These cells are modified postganglionic neurons. Autonomic nerve fibers lead directly to them from the central nervous system. The adrenal medullary hormones are kept in vesicles much in the same way neurotransmitters are kept in neuronal vesicles. Hormonal effects can last up to ten times longer than those of neurotransmitters. Sympathetic nerve fiber impulses stimulate the release of adrenal medullary hormones. In this way the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system and the medullary secretions function together.

Subfornical organ in the brain

The subfornical organ (SFO) is one of the circumventricular organs of the brain. Its name comes from its location on the ventral surface of the fornix near the interventricular foramina, which interconnect the lateral ventricles and the third ventricle. Like all circumventricular organs, the subfornical organ is well-vascularized, and like all circumventricular organs except the subcommissural organ, some SFO capillaries have fenestrations, which increase capillary permeability. The SFO is considered a sensory circumventricular organ because it is responsive to a wide variety of hormones and neurotransmitters, as opposed to secretory circumventricular organs, which are specialized in the release of certain substances.

Neuroendocrinology is the branch of biology which studies the interaction between the nervous system and the endocrine system, that is how the brain regulates the hormonal activity in the body. The nervous and endocrine systems often act together in a process called neuroendocrine integration, to regulate the physiological processes of the human body. Neuroendocrinology arose from the recognition that the brain, especially the hypothalamus, controls secretion of pituitary gland hormones, and has subsequently expanded to investigate numerous interconnections of the endocrine and nervous systems.

The vascular organ of lamina terminalis (VOLT), organum vasculosum of the lamina terminalis(OVLT), or supraoptic crest is one of the four sensory circumventricular organs of the brain, the others being the subfornical organ, the median eminence, and the area postrema in the brainstem.

Circumventricular organs Interfaces between the brain and systemic circulation and lacks blood-brain barrier for the purpose of efficiently sensing systemic circulation and secreting neurohormones directly into the circulation as they see fit.

Circumventricular organs (CVOs) are structures in the brain characterized by their extensive and highly permeable capillaries, unlike those in the rest of the brain where there exists a blood–brain barrier (BBB) at the capillary level. Although the term "circumventricular organs" was originally proposed in 1958 by Austrian anatomist Helmut O. Hofer concerning structures around the brain ventricular system, the penetration of blood-borne dyes into small specific CVO regions was discovered in the early 20th century. The permeable CVOs enabling rapid neurohumoral exchange include the subfornical organ (SFO), the area postrema (AP), the vascular organ of lamina terminalis (VOLT), the median eminence, the pituitary neural lobe, and the pineal gland.

Tuber cinereum

The tuber cinereum is a hollow eminence of the middle–ventral hypothalamus, specifically the arcuate nucleus, situated between the mammillary bodies and the optic chiasm. In addition to the ventral hypothalamus, the tuber cinereum includes the median eminence and pituitary gland. Together with the hollow itself, it is sometimes referred to as the pituitary stalk.

Hypophyseal portal system

The hypophyseal portal system is a system of blood vessels in the microcirculation at the base of the brain, connecting the hypothalamus with the anterior pituitary. Its main function is to quickly transport and exchange hormones between the hypothalamus arcuate nucleus and anterior pituitary gland. The capillaries in the portal system are fenestrated which allows a rapid exchange between the hypothalamus and the pituitary. The main hormones transported by the system include gonadotropin-releasing hormone, corticotropin-releasing hormone, growth hormone–releasing hormone, and thyrotropin-releasing hormone.

Geoffrey Wingfield Harris (1913–1971) was a British physiologist and neuroendocrinologist. Often considered the "father of neuroendocrinology", he is best known for showing that the anterior pituitary is regulated by the hypothalamus via the hypophyseal portal system. His work established the principles for the 1977 Nobel Prize-winning discovery of hypothalamic hormones by Schally and Guillemin.


  1. 1 2 3 Gross PM, Weindl A (December 1987). "Peering through the windows of the brain". Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism. 7 (6): 663–72. doi: 10.1038/jcbfm.1987.120 . PMID   2891718.
  2. Scott DE, Pepe GJ (July 1987). "The fetal baboon median eminence as a circumventricular organ: I. Transmission electron microscopy". Brain Research Bulletin. 19 (1): 87–94. doi:10.1016/0361-9230(87)90170-5. PMID   3651843.
  3. 1 2 3 Gross PM (1992). "Circumventricular organ capillaries". Progress in Brain Research. 91: 219–33. doi:10.1016/S0079-6123(08)62338-9. PMID   1410407.
  4. Johnson AK, Gross PM (May 1993). "Sensory circumventricular organs and brain homeostatic pathways". FASEB Journal. 7 (8): 678–86. doi:10.1096/fasebj.7.8.8500693. PMID   8500693.
  5. Ganong WF (2000). "Circumventricular organs: definition and role in the regulation of endocrine and autonomic function". Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology & Physiology. 27 (5–6): 422–7. doi:10.1046/j.1440-1681.2000.03259.x. PMID   10831247.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Palkovits M (1984). "Neuropeptides in the hypothalamo-hypophyseal system: lateral retrochiasmatic area as a common gate for neuronal fibers towards the median eminence". Peptides. 5 Suppl 1: 35–9. doi:10.1016/0196-9781(84)90262-6. PMID   6148739.
  7. 1 2 Shaver SW, Pang JJ, Wainman DS, Wall KM, Gross PM (March 1992). "Morphology and function of capillary networks in subregions of the rat tuber cinereum". Cell and Tissue Research. 267 (3): 437–48. doi:10.1007/BF00319366. PMID   1571958.