Here, we construct a mathematical model of the hypothalamic systems that control the secretion of growth hormone (GH). The work extends a recent model of the pituitary GH system, adding representations of the hypothalamic GH-releasing hormone (GHRH) and somatostatin neurones, each modelled as a single synchronised unit. An unpatterned stochastic input drives the GHRH neurones generating pulses of GHRH release that trigger GH pulses. Delayed feedback from GH results in increased somatostatin release, which inhibits both GH secretion and GHRH release, producing an overall pattern of 3-h pulses of GH secretion that is very similar to the secretory profile observed in male rats. Rather than directly stimulating somatostatin release, GH feedback triggers a priming effect, increasing releasable stores of somatostatin. Varying this priming effect to reduce the effect of GH can reproduce the less pulsatile form of GH release observed in the female rat. The model behaviour is tested by comparison with experimental observations with a range of different experimental protocols involving GHRH injections and somatostatin and GH infusion.
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