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What Is the Connection Between the Endocrine System and Nervous System?

The brain houses two important components of the endocrine system: the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland.
Neurons are cells located in the brain that are used by the nervous system to regulate the rest of the body.
Nervous system.
Article Details
  • Written By: A. Garrett
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Images By: Karen Roach, Sergey Nivens, J E Theriot
  • Last Modified Date: 31 March 2014
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The endocrine system and nervous system both communicate messages vital to human growth and development and the regulation of the body's everyday functions. Both systems depend on communication between cells to relay such messages. Also, a section of the brain known as the hypothalamus affects the behavior of the each system.

The endocrine system helps regulate internal functions and the biological structure. Major facets of development such as growth, mood, metabolism, and procreation are dependent on a properly performing system. In order to serve its purpose, the endocrine system uses the glands for the secretion of hormones.

Glands are cells that identify certain materials in the bloodstream in order to convert them into chemicals that can be used in other areas of the body. Hormonal messages are chemical byproducts of endocrine glands. They are secreted into the bloodstream by the glands and subsequently taken to various cells. These chemicals then transfer information or instructions to cells related to organs, tissues, muscles, and reproduction. The pituitary gland is the most important gland in the system because it produces hormones that influence the behavior of other endocrine cells.

Just like the endocrine system, the nervous system sends messages throughout the body that help ensure that the body functions in an optimal manner. Both systems also employ cells to carry out this operational task. Neurons are the cells used by the nerve system. These cells are located in the brain and send electrical messages to other parts of the body via the spinal cord.

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Both the endocrine system and nervous system are essential to allow the body to maintain homeostasis. Homeostasis is the state reached when each part of the body functions in equilibrium with every other part. This is achieved through the adjustment of the bodily functions regulated by the endocrine and nervous systems. While the endocrine system primarily governs long term behavior such as growth, the nervous system controls short term behavior like breathing, sweating, and digestion, as well as sensory behavior like sight, sound, smell, touch and taste.

Although the two systems are distinct and work independent of each other, they are linked via the hypothalamus. Located in the center of the brain near its base, the hypothalamus is a collection of cells that dictate the body’s response to external stimuli. For example, it uses the nervous system to control breathing during strenuous physical activity and digestion after large meals.

The hypothalamus also influences the endocrine system. Chemicals produced by this part of the brain increase or decrease the amount of hormones released by the pituitary gland. Because of the pituitary gland’s importance to hormonal messaging, having control over it makes the hypothalamus a key part of the endocrine system.

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