Understanding the Neuroendocrine System

The neuroendocrine system is the link between your brain and the body’s endocrine systems. This means that, in effect, the brain is part of the endocrine system. The internal state of your body is changing constantly, and the hormones and cells related to your neuroendocrine system are responsible for developing and regulating those changes. Contact a practicing medical professional for more information.

Common Facts

Almost every organ in your body contains neuroendocrine cells, with these cells performing a variety of functions. In particular, these cells are located in the respiratory and digestive tract. In the latter case, they may be found anywhere from the mouth to the rectum. The reproductive organs, pancreas, thyroid and adrenal glands also depend on neuroendocrine cells.

The pituitary and hypothalamus glands are the major components of the neuroendocrine system. Neurotransmitters aid in regulating the hormones produced by these glands, as do neuropeptides. The glands detect secreted hormones from other bodily tissues and adjust their own hormone production accordingly, so the body functions optimally.

The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) Axis

The HPA axis serves as the body’s primary stress response system and combines components of the endocrine and central nervous systems. The almond-sized hypothalamus, located above the brain stem, creates its own hormones and controls the release of hormones developed by the pituitary gland.

The pituitary gland, the most important of all endocrine glands, is no larger than a pea and is found at the brain’s base beneath the hypothalamus. It is under the control of the hypothalamus, which sends messages regarding pituitary needs.

In turn, the pituitary gland controls various other glands, including the ovaries or testes, the thyroid, and the adrenal glands. The latter are situated above the kidneys, where they produce three main types of hormones: androgens, glucocorticoids, and mineralocorticoids.

The HPA axis responds to stress by releasing hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine. If the HPA axis is not functioning properly due to constant stress or other factors, serious problems may ensue. This dysfunction may result in physical, emotional, or mental disturbances or a combination of all three.

Main Functions

It is arguably easier to list what the neuroendocrine system does not oversee in the human body. As briefly as possible, neuroendocrine cells and hormones control:

  • Muscle and bone growth
  • Heart rate
  • Blood pressure
  • Body temperature
  • Levels of blood glucose
  • Air and blood flow in the lungs
  • Speed of food going through the gastrointestinal tract
  • Sexual function
  • Memory
  • Emotional and aggression responses
  • Digestion enzyme release for food breakdown
  • Waking and sleeping patterns
  • Hunger and thirst levels

Any disruption of the neuroendocrine system may result in undesirable symptoms, and because so many parts of the body are affected, symptoms may seem vague and resemble other ailments. In the early stages, conditions such as adrenal fatigue—which is strongly affected by the state of the HPA axis—may simply make a person feel more tired than usual and prone to consuming more caffeine to stay awake.

If a patient does not seek treatment or make lifestyle changes, though, the symptoms may progress to the point that, in a worst-case scenario, a total breakdown is possible. That is why it is important to seek medical attention if fatigue and lack of energy do not resolve fairly quickly.

Reaching Out to Dr. Jacobson Today

For more information about the neuroendocrine system, call the offices of Dr. Edward Jacobson today and arrange a consultation at any one of his practice locations: Greenwich, Connecticut; Manhattan, New York; Newport Beach, California; or Beverly Hills, California. Dr. Jacobson could conduct appropriate testing and, if neuroendocrine problems are detected, could formulate a holistic treatment plan—including the use of bioidentical hormone therapy—to help your body return to normal functioning.