Communication pathways of the hypothalamus with other brain regions and the periphery are critical to successfully control key physiological and psychological processes. With advanced functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques, it is possible to target hypothalamic function and infer discrete hypothalamus networks. Resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) is a promising tool to study the functional organization of the brain and may act as a marker of individual differences and dysfunctions. Based on recent fMRI findings, the hypothalamus is mostly connected to parts of the striatum, midbrain, thalamus, insula, frontal, cingulate, and temporal cortices and the cerebellum. There is a strong interplay of the hypothalamus with these regions in response to different metabolic, hormonal, and nutritional states. In a state of hunger, hypothalamus RSFC increases with a strong shift to reward-related brain regions, especially in person with excessive weight. Nutrient signals and hormones, as insulin, act on these same connections conveying reward and internal signals to regulate homeostatic control. Moreover, dysfunctional hypothalamus communication has been documented in persons with neurological and psychiatric diseases. The results implicate that patients with depression, epilepsy, and neurodegenerative diseases show mostly a reduction in hypothalamus RSFC, whereas patients with migraine and headache display predominantly increased hypothalamus RSFC. The extent of these changes and regions affected depend on the disorder and symptom severity. Whether hypothalamus RSFC can serve as a marker for disease states or is a prodromal neurobiological feature still needs to be investigated.
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