There are two key glands located within the brain: the pineal gland and the pituitary gland. These two structures are part of the endocrine system: they produce hormones which control different aspects of the body’s normal functioning. Since the list of the pituitary gland’s hormones secreted within the body is extensive, I’ll be discussing the pineal gland first and leave the pituitary gland hormones for the page titled Pituitary Gland= Master.
The pineal gland is small and pine-cone shaped, as the picture below shows. It may be small, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s insignificant. It is located between the left and right hemispheres of the brain and is attached to the third ventricle.
Its chief function is to control our diurnal rhythms or sleep/wake cycles (the two terms are interchangeable); it does this by means of secreting the hormone melatonin. This hormone is secreted at higher concentrations within darkness to tell the body that it is time to sleep. The diurnal rhythm can be fairly flexible when it wants to be; however, it’s best to keep to a constant rhythm: whether you are working night shift or day shift, consistency is key. People that work a combination of night and split shifts i.e. nurses know full well that messing around with your sleep/wake cycle can wreak havoc on your body in the long run.
One thing about melatonin that you may not be aware of: it also plays a role with our sexual development. The pineal gland also speaks multiple languages within the body: it can interpret electrical signals arriving from peripheral nerves within the SNS (sympathetic nervous system) and convert this information into hormonal signals.
Pituitary Gland: Anatomy
The pituitary gland is considered as the ‘master gland’ of the body, as it produces multiple hormones which coordinate the release of other hormones in different glands in the body. It is split into two different sections as the picture below shows: the anterior and posterior pituitary glands, which, as their names suggest, are located in the front and back, respectively. It is located below the hypothalamus and at the base of the brain. More of the pituitary gland is discussed in Pituitary Gland=Master.