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Pituitary Gland

A pea-sized gland at the base of the brain that regulates the body's balance of hormones.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)

About the Pituitary Gland

The pituitary gland (hypophysis) controls important body functions and the hormonal system. It is a protrusion at the base of the brain and about the size of a pea or cherry, which is why it is called "hypophysis" (Greek for "growth attached below"). The gland lies well protected in a small cavity of the cranial bones, level with the nose, and in the middle of the head.

The pituitary gland and the hypothalamus — a part of the interbrain — both control the involuntary nervous system, which manages the balance of energy, heat and water in the body. Body temperature, heart beat or the amount of urine are all regulated this way, for example, and so are sleep, hunger and thirst. The pituitary gland also produces a series of hormones that either control most of the other hormone glands in the body or have a direct effect on specific organs.

The pituitary gland is made up of four parts:

  • Anterior...

Read more about the Pituitary Gland

Terms to know

Anterior
In human anatomy, has to do with the front of a structure, or a structure found toward the front of the body.
Brain
The part of the central nervous system that is contained within the skull (cranium).
Brain Stem
The part of the brain that is connected to the spinal cord.
Central Nervous System
The brain and spinal cord. Also called CNS.
Cerebellum
The portion of the brain in the back of the head between the cerebrum and the brain stem. The cerebellum controls balance for walking and standing, and other complex motor functions.
Cerebral Ventricles (Brain Ventricles)
A series of interconnected, fluid-filled cavities found within the brain. These cavities are the ventricles of the brain, and the fluid is cerebrospinal fluid.
Cerebrum
The largest part of the brain. It is divided into two hemispheres, or halves, called the cerebral hemispheres. Areas within the cerebrum control muscle functions and also control speech, thought, emotions, reading, writing, and learning.
Choroid Plexus
A network of blood vessels and cells in the ventricles (fluid-filled spaces) of the brain. The blood vessels are covered by a thin layer of cells that make cerebrospinal fluid.
Hormones
A messenger molecule that helps coordinate the actions of various tissues; made in one part of the body and transported, via the bloodstream, to tissues and organs elsewhere in the body.
Hypothalamus
The area of the brain that controls body temperature, hunger, and thirst.
Lobe
A portion of an organ, such as the liver, lung, breast, thyroid, or brain.
Medulla Oblongata (Brain Medulla)
The medulla oblongata is the lower half of the brainstem. It is often referred to simply as the medulla. The medulla deals with the autonomic (involuntary) functions of breathing, heart rate and blood pressure.
Optic Nerve
A bundle of more than 1 million nerve fibers that carries visual messages from the retina to the brain.
Pineal Gland
A tiny organ in the cerebrum that produces melatonin. Also called pineal body and pineal organ.
Pons
Part of the central nervous system, located at the base of the brain, between the medulla oblongata and the midbrain. It is part of the brain stem.
Posterior
In human anatomy, has to do with the back of a structure, or a structure found toward the back of the body.
Skull
The skeleton of the head including the bones of the face and the bones enclosing the brain.
Spinal Cord
A column of nerve tissue that runs from the base of the skull down the back. It is surrounded by three protective membranes, and is enclosed within the vertebrae (back bones). The spinal cord and the brain make up the central nervous system, and spinal cord nerves carry most messages between the brain and the rest of the body.

Terms to know

Anterior
In human anatomy, has to do with the front of a structure, or a structure found toward the front of the body....
Brain
The part of the central nervous system that is contained within the skull (cranium)....
Brain Stem
The part of the brain that is connected to the spinal cord....
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