The pituitary gland and hypothalamus are located in the brain. The pituitary is functionally related to, physically connected to, and, along with the target organs, controlled by the hypothalmus. The pituitary is shown as yellow or light blue depending on the picture below. The hypothalamus is depicted in green.
The hypothalamus and pituitary gland may play a role in many of the signs and symptoms associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis. Interestingly, autoimmune-inflammatory condtions such as rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis are, likewise, often associated with signs and symptoms that suggest possible hypothalamus and pituitary dysfunction, as are certain inherited connective tissue disorders such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. In this regard, they may all share similar causes of hypothalamic-pituitary dysfunction related to obstruction of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flow. Signs and symptoms of hypothalamus or pituitary problems can include: heat intolerance, sensitivity to cold, disruption in sleep cycles, short shallow breathing, fatigue, cog fog, decreased memory, irritability, mood swings, muscle cramps, increased urination and constipation.
In humans the pituitary gland or hypophysis has two basic parts called the anterior and posterior pituitary. The anterior part of the pituitary, adenohypophysis, is regulated by the hypothalamus and by a negative feedback from target organs. The target organs are the adrenals, liver, bone, thyroid, and gonads. It produces and secretes adrenocorticotropin, beta endorphin, thyroid-stimulating, follicle stimulating, luteinizing, prolactin and growth hormone. The posterior pituitary gland (technically not a gland) also known as neurohypophysis is actually a collection of nerve projections that come from control centers in the hypothalamus. In contrast to the anterior pituitary, the posterior pituitary stores and secretes oxytocin and antidiuretic hormone (also known as vasopressin and arginine vasopressin), which are produced in the hypothalamus.
The pituitary gland is part of the endocrine system of the body. The endocrine system secretes hormones directly into the bloodstream, unlike the exocrine system that uses ducts. The endocrine system is similar to the nervous system in that they are both informational signal systems and the pituitary and hypothalamus are part of the brain, but the similarities end there. The endrocine system signals are slow to initiate and produce a relatively prolonged respone. The nervous system sends information quickly and it’s responses are short-lived. Most of the nervous system uses neurotransmitters to relay signals and control systems in the brain and body. In contrast the endocrine system use hormones that travel through the blood stream to reach and regulate various systems.
The hypothalamus is responsible for certain metabolic processes and other activities of the autonomic nervous system responsible for maintaining homeostasis such as: hunger, appetite, temperature regulation, sleep cycles, reproduction, stress and water balance. In some species, it initiates and controls hibernation. The hypothalamus also synthesizes and secretes certain neurohormones often called hypothalamic releasing hormones that stimulate or inhibit the secretion of pituitary hormones.