Friday, January 18, 2008

Function of the Endocrine System

By Sudipa Sarkar
Explain the function of the endocrine system and its relation to neurotransmitters. Address the role of hormones in the following activities: flight or fight response, emotions, and sexuality.

Function of the Endocrine System

The endocrine system comprises of the pancreas, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenals, pineal, pituitary and testes/ovaries. In order to function and perform various physiological processes through different organs, it secrets chemical messengers called ‘Hormones’. The endocrine system basically influences each and every cell, organ and functions of different organs. The endocrine system is involved in regulating mood, emotion, tissue function, metabolism, growth and development and sexual function and reproductive practices.

Relation between Endocrine System and Neurotransmitter

Endocrine system is connected with the brain through hypothalamus which is responsible for many bodily activities such as appetite, sleep, sexual function. While functioning, the hypothalamus makes use of some of the neurotransmitters that have been connected with the management of the endocrine system. These neurotransmitters, serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine all have a role in the management of endocrinal hormone function.

The endocrine system uses hormones to transmit information same as the nervous system employs neurotransmitters to do the same thing in similar fashion. Chemically both of the system functions in messaging by virtue of the same transmitters but they are used in different pattern. For example, norepinephrine acts as a neurotransmitter in the nervous system whereas it functions as an adrenal hormone in the endocrine system.

Role of Hormones

Flight of Fight Response:

The ‘flight or fight response’ is a primitive, automatic, sympathetic reaction to our body that enables us either fight with the threatening situation or escape from it in order to avoid any harm to our system. When the flight and fight response is activated, the hormones adrenalin, noradrenalin, cortisol are released into our blood stream. These hormones then influence and cause high respiratory rate, intensified awareness, dilated pupil, sharpen sights, quicken impulse and highly activated immune system. In simple terms, it prepares our body – both physically and psychologically – to face the perceived danger.

Emotion:

The relation of hormone with emotion is bi-directional – that implies both influence each other. The emotional part is generally influenced by the hormone called serotonin, which is manufactured in the brain by amino acid tryptophan. Serotonin basically helps to preserve a ‘happy feelings’ and modify mood by influencing the level of anxiety, depression and cycle of sleep and awake. The hormone dopamine is responsible for controlling the activity level.

Sexuality:

Primarily the sexuality is governed by two hormones – androgens and estrogens. These include –

Androgens

• Testosterone
• Androstenedione
• Dihydrotestosterone
• Dehydroepiandrosterone
• Anabolic steroids

Estrogens

• Estradiol
• Diethylstilbestrol
These sex hormones are responsible for developing primary and secondary sex characteristics as well as sex functioning.
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