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The Pituitary Gland

The pituitary gland is sometimes called the "master" gland of the endocrine system. This is because it controls the functions of many of the other endocrine glands. The pituitary gland is no larger than a pea, and is located at the base of the brain. The gland is attached to the hypothalamus by nerve fibers and blood vessels. The pituitary gland itself has 2 lobes:

  • Anterior lobe

  • Posterior lobe

Functions of the pituitary gland

Each lobe of the pituitary gland makes certain hormones.

Anterior lobe

  • GH (growth hormone, which influences growth during childhood)

  • Prolactin, to stimulate milk production in the female breast

  • ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone), which regulates  the adrenal glands

  • TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone), which regulates the thyroid gland

  • FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone), which regulates the ovaries and testes

  • LH (luteinizing hormone), which regulates the ovaries or testes

Posterior lobe

  • ADH (antidiuretic hormone). This, is actually made in the hypothalamus and stored in the pituitary gland. It increases absorption of water by the kidneys. It also increases blood pressure.

  • Oxytocin. This contracts the uterus during childbirth and stimulates the release of milk during breastfeeding. Oxytocin also plays a role in bonding and trust, especially between parents and children.

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