Pituitary gland (hypophysis): the nexus between neurons and hormones
All the mental processes that occur from the nervous system of the human being do not depend solely on the activity of the neurons.
Between the parts of the brain, there are several whose activity depends directly on what is happening in the endocrine system, that is, the set of organs that secrete hormones.
The pituitary gland (or pituitary gland) is, precisely, one of the structures of our brain in which draws a bridge between the world of hormones and that of nerve impulses that travel our neurons. Thanks to the hypophysis, what we think and perceive through the senses has an impact on the way we enter into one or another emotional state.
What is the pituitary or pituitary gland?
The pituitary gland is an endocrine gland that helps us to make all those hormonal responses that occur in the body are well coordinated with each other and keep us in a state of harmony in relation to what happens in the environment.
The pituitary gland is one of the areas where orders of producing certain hormones are rapidly transmitted when certain stimuli are detected in the environment . For example, if we see a snake, this visual information, before reaching the areas of the cerebral cortex responsible for converting this signal into something that can be thought of in abstract terms, passes through a region called the thalamus.
The thalamus processes this visual information and, by detecting patterns of information that relate this data to the danger, transmits a signal that will quickly pass to the pituitary gland, located very close, and this will begin to secrete hormones related to the use of force , the reaction speed and strength. These hormones will travel through the bloodstream and activate other glands spread throughout the body , which will ensure that the entire organism is in a certain activation situation for several minutes.
All this, without waiting for the cerebral cortex to process the visual information and the reasoning that the snakes are poisonous.
The pituitary gland and the limbic system
The example we have just seen is a sample of the way in which the pituitary gland converts nerve signals into the production of hormones that remain for several seconds floating in the bloodstream. Whereas each "action" of a neuron lasts thousandths of a second, the hormonal effects of the pituitary gland are more lasting , although its effects are also less precise.
While neurons are connected only with some other nerve cells, and not all, the hormones are navigating in the blood without control, activating areas of the body very far from each other, and in a longer time frame. That is why, once we have finished running, not only does it cost us more to breathe during the following seconds or minutes, but our way of thinking is also altered; It is a side effect of the hormones, something that is not useful for us but that occurs anyway due to the broad temporal reach of the endocrine system.
The pituitary gland and Descartes
The pituitary gland is one of the parts of the brain that is most centered. In fact, it is located just below the hypothalamus. another of the structures that make up the limbic system.
It is partly because of this that the famous philosopher René Descartes identified it as the possible place where, according to his dualistic perspective, the soul (res cogitans) interacts with the matter of the human body (res extensa). Of course, this theory is rejected by the scientific community , since it does not really provide an explanation about the functioning of the pituitary gland.
The pituitary gland is an example that psychological processes are totally linked to hormonal processes and, therefore, also to the emotional side of our personality .
Taking this into account is important, as it reminds us to what extent rationality and irrationality are not two compartments and, also, that there are certain automatic emotional responses that do not depend on our way of thinking about what happens to us.