The behavior of animals and human beings is mostly affected by two responding systems in hypothalamus and other structures of limbic system. These two systems act opposite to one another.

The responding systems are concerned with the affective nature of sensations, i.e. whether the sensations are pleasant or painful. These two qualities are called the reward (satisfaction) and punishment (aversion or avoidance). Hypothalamus has two centers for behaviorial and emotional changes. They are:

i. Reward center

ii. Punishment center.

Reward Center

Reward center is situated in medial forebrain bundle and ventromedial nucleus of hypothalamus. Electrical stimulation of these areas in animals pleases or satisfies the animals.

Punishment Center

Punishment center is situated in posterior and lateral nuclei of hypothalamus. Electrical stimulation of these nuclei in animals leads to pain, fear, defense, escape reactions and other elements of punishment.

Role of Reward and Punishment Centers

The importance of the reward and punishment centers lies in the behavioral pattern of the individuals. Almost all the activities of day-to-day life depend upon reward and punishment. While doing something, if the person is rewarded or feels satisfied, he or she continues to do so. If the person feels punished or unpleasant, he or she stops doing so. Thus, these two centers play an important role in the development of the behavioral pattern of a person.


Rage refers to violent and aggressive emotional expression with extreme anger. It can be developed

in animals by stimulating the punishment centers in posterior and lateral hypothalamus. The reactions of

rage are expressed by developing a defense posture, which includes:

i. Extension of limbs

ii. Lifting of tail

iii. Hissing and spitting

iv. Piloerection

v. Wide opening of eyeballs

vi. Dilatation of pupil

vii. Severe savage attack even by mild provocation.

Sham Rage

Sham rage means false rage. It is an extreme emotional condition that resembles rage and occurs in some pathological conditions in humans. In physiological conditions, the animals and human

beings maintain a balance between the rage and its opposite state. This balanced condition is called the calm emotional state. A major irritation may make a person to loose the temper. However, the minor irritations are usually ignored or overcome. It is because of inhibitory influence of cerebral cortex on hypothalamus. But the calm emotional state is altered during brain lesions. In some cases, even a mild stimulus evokes sham rage. It can occur in decorticated animal also. Sham rage is due to release of hypothalamus from the inhibitory influence of cortical control.


In animals, hypothalamus plays an important role in maintaining the sexual functions, especially in

females. A decorticate female animal will have regular estrous cycle, provided the hypothalamus is intact.

In human beings also, hypothalamus regulates the sexual functions by secreting gonadotropin releasing hormones. Arcuate and posterior hypothalamic nuclei are involved in the regulation of sexual functions.


Posterior hypothalamus along with other structures like hippocampus and brainstem nuclei are responsible for the autonomic responses of body to olfactory stimuli. The responses include feeding activities and emotional responses like fear, excitement and pleasure.


Circadian rhythm is the regular recurrence of physiological processes or activities, which occur in cycles of 24 hours. It is also called diurnal rhythm. The term circadian is a Latin word, meaning ‘around the day’.

Circadian rhythm develops in response to recurring daylight and darkness. The cyclic changes taking place in various physiological processes are set by means of a hypothetical internal clock that is often called biological clock. Suprachiasmatic nucleus of hypothalamus plays an important role in setting the biological clock by its connection with retina via retinohypothalamic fibers. Through the efferent fibers, it sends circadian signals to different parts and maintains the circadian rhythm of sleep, hormonal secretion, thirst, hunger, appetite, etc. Whenever body is exposed to a new pattern of daylight or darkness rhythm, the biological clock is reset, provided the new pattern is regular. Accordingly, the circadian rhythm also changes.

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