Pituitary Gland

The Pituitary glands together produce many important hormones that can govern the activity of all the other endocrines. For this reason it is often called the “captain of the ship”, but things can get out of hand, although fortunately these are quite rare also.

The Pituitary gland is located on the undersurface of the brain close to where the optic nerves arise is a vital area known as the hypothalamus. Its anatomical boundaries are not clearly defined, but it is a hive of activity. Jutting from the hypothalamus is a short stalk, at the end of which is the pituitary gland, the first of the important series of internal glands called the endocrines. Collectively, this small area exerts a major influence over other endocrine glands of the system, as well as being of crucial importance to the wellbeing and normal activities of the body. Over the past few years much research has been carried out on these centers, and today a lot of relatively new information is available.

The hypothalamus contains specialized centers (called nuclei) that regulate body temperature, sleep rhythm, appetite and sexual development and function. It has control over blood circulation, respiration and the nervous system, including the emotional system. It also acts as a control center for the various hormones produced and secreted by the pituitary gland itself. Chemicals called neurohormones are produced here. These are carried via the blood to the pituitary gland, permitting it to release the various hormones it manufactures.

In some cases, release of some hormones is reduced or entirely prevented. In effect, the hypothalamus acts as an accelerator or a brake on the pituitary. The hypothalamus also produces two hormones called vasopressin and oxytocin that are carried by the blood to the back (posterior) part of the pituitary, where they are stored.

The pituitary gland itself is a small organ, comprising a front or anterior lobe (sometimes called the adenohypophysis), and a back or posterior lobe (called the neurohypophysis). Each lobe produces or stores certain chemicals called hormones which can exert a profound and dynamic effect on many other parts of the body. They are of major importance. It is incredible that such a small area of the body can be so influential in regulating the system’s general welfare.