Pituitary Gland


The pituitary gland is located at the base of the brain in a protective bony cavity, the pituitary gland is a small oval gland approximately the size of a pea. The pituitary hangs by a thin piece of tissue from the interior surface of the hypothalamus. It is divided into two distinct lobes or regions: the anterior pituitary (the front lobe) and the posterior pituitary (the rear lobe). The anterior pituitary produces and secretes six hormones. The posterior pituitary secretes two hormones but does not produce them. Those hormones are made by the hypothalamus, which uses the posterior pituitary as a storage area for the hormones until they are needed.

Pituitary gland
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A cutaway view of the brain, including the pituitary gland. Located at the base of the brain behind the nose, this gland is approximately the size of a pea.
Illustration by Electronic Illustrators Group.

Six of the eight hormones released by the pituitary stimulate or "turn on" other endocrine glands. For this reason, they are referred to as tropic hormones. (The English term tropic comes from the Greek word tropos, meaning "to turn" or "change") The other two hormones control some bodily function. Because the pituitary's secretions control and regulate the secretions of other endocrine glands, it is often called the hypophysis or "master gland " of the endocrine system.

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