What Are Some Facts About the Pituitary Gland?

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The pituitary gland, known as the “master gland” of the human body, is directly or indirectly responsible for such wide-ranging bodily functions as growth, reproduction, mood, behavior and metabolism. In women, it is responsible for the production of breast milk, opening the birth canal, and regulating the menstrual cycle.

The pituitary gland, also known as the hypophysis cerebri, lies beneath the hypothalamus in the human brain, and is connected to the hypothalamus by a structure called the pituitary stalk. The pituitary gland was known even in the time of the ancient Greeks, although it was not until the 20th century that its many functions in the human body began to be understood.

These pituitary functions are possible due to the different types of cells that comprise it. In general, the pituitary gland secretes several types of hormones, each of which are responsible for different tasks within the body. Trophic hormones, for example, secreted by the anterior pituitary gland, are responsible for stimulating other glands of the body, such as the thyroid, the ovaries and the testes. The posterior pituitary gland is responsible for secreting the hormone oxytocin, producing milk in women, and secreting vasopressin, which controls water balance and blood pressure in the body.