The Function of the Endocrine System - Glands and hormones

The endocrine system is a specialised system that supports the body in its functionality. It can be compared to an orchestra in the sense that every musician - in this case, every gland - has its function. All musicians work together when playing or creating music. Similarly, all glands work together, monitored by the hypothalamus in the regulation of body functions. In short, the function of the endocrine system is that it is a network of organs that supports the regulation of the body's functions through chemical messengers, known as hormones.

The Function of the Endocrine System - Glands and hormones The Function of the Endocrine System - Glands and hormones

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Table of contents
    • We are going to delve into the world of the function of the endocrine system glands and hormones in psychology.
    • First, we will explore the endocrine system's organs and functions.
    • We will provide a list of endocrine glands and their hormones to illustrate our discussion.
    • Following this, we will also provide a glands hormones and their functions chart.
    • Finally, we will discuss the various endocrine system diseases and how they affect the body.

    The Function of the Endocrine System - Glands and hormones, man flexing his bicep, StudySmarterFig. 1 - The endocrine system has different functions.

    The Function of the Endocrine System: Glands and Hormones in Psychology

    The endocrine system is responsible for the production and transmission of information in the body via messenger substances called hormones. Hormones are produced in specialised organs called glands as well as in endocrine cells located in various organs throughout the body.

    The endocrine system is a collection of glands across the body that secrete hormones.

    The endocrine system works together with the nervous system to secrete hormones.

    Hormones are chemical molecules that pass on information in the body through the bloodstream, with widespread effects.

    Their main function is to control and regulate biological processes and rhythms as well as developmental processes. They can work locally or use the bloodstream to travel throughout the whole body to their effector organs.

    Once released into the bloodstream, hormones keep on circulating in the body until broken down by the liver and kidneys.

    Endocrine System Organs and Functions

    The endocrine system transports specialised hormones to the different body parts of the blood system. The different hormones are produced by glands. The endocrine system is composed of several glands, such as the Pituitary gland, the Thyroid gland, the Pineal gland and the Gonads.

    The Function of the Endocrine System - Glands and hormones, diagram of the endocrine system organs and functions, StudySmarterFig. 2 - The endocrine system is comprised of different glands and hormones.

    Among all components of the Endocrin system, there is an organ of special relevance, the hypothalamus.

    • The hypothalamus can be considered the control centre of the endocrine system.

    The hypothalamus controls the release of hormones from the pituitary gland, the master gland. In this way, the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland are connected.

    The hypothalamus is the control centre, and the pituitary gland receives orders from the hypothalamus and enacts them across the endocrine system, acting as the master gland.

    Types of Glands

    Glands are specialised organs that create hormones or other substances, such as tears, sweat, milk, seminal fluid or saliva. Glands can be split into two categories:

    • Exocrine glands: Secrete substances into ducts, examples include tear ducts and salivary glands.

    • Endocrine glands: Secrete substances into the bloodstream.

    Hormones are produced in the endocrine glands in the human body. The hormones they produce have one or many effectors, meaning the organs that they affect. The endocrine glands include the:

    • Thyroid gland.

    • Thymus.

    • Pituitary gland.

    • Pineal gland.

    • Pancreas.

    • Testes or Ovaries, depending on your biological sex.

    • Adrenal glands.

    Some hormones’ only function is to stimulate the release of other glands. These are called indirect action hormones. The glands cued to produce hormones by indirect action hormones are called target glands. Other hormones affect organs directly; these are called direct action hormones or effector hormones.

    List of Endocrine Glands and their Hormones

    As we discussed above, there are different types of endocrine glands. Consider the following list of endocrine glands and their hormones:

    • The thyroid gland contains thyroid hormones (thyroxine and triiodothyronine) which influence growth and metabolism.

    • The pineal gland releases melatonin and is involved in sleep.

    • The pancreas is in charge of the production and release of insulin, which influences blood sugar levels and stimulates the metabolism of glucose, protein and fat.

    • The testicles release androgens such as testosterone, which is involved in the development of male sexual characteristics.

    • The ovaries release estrogen, which supports reproductive development in females and female sexual characteristics.

    • The adrenal glands secrete two types of hormones: epinephrine - which is involved in oxygen intake, blood flow and heart rates - and norepinephrine - which is involved in blood pressure, blood vessels, and glucose release.

    You don’t have to learn all the different hormones for your exam, it’s enough to have a rough idea of how they work and to be able to explain two or three.

    The Pituitary Gland

    One of the most important glands is located in the brain; the pituitary gland, also called the master gland.

    The pituitary gland controls the production and secretion of many other hormones.

    Part of it, the posterior pituitary gland, is an extension of the part of the brain called the hypothalamus. It is not glandular.


    The other part, the anterior pituitary gland, is glandular and connects to the posterior pituitary and contains cells that produce many hormones. These so-called releasing hormones in turn tell the target glands in the body to produce local or specialised hormones that affect another set of organs in the body.

    It’s a bit like if you ordered a new games console for a friend. You (the hypothalamus) tell provider through one website what you want (pituitary). They coordinate with sellers and warehouses in different countries (target glands).

    These sellers pack and send packages to your friend’s delivery address (effector organs). Now they have no more excuses and can get to playing (effect).

    Glands, Hormones and their Functions Chart

    Here there is a table of the different glands, and the hormones they release, together with the hormones' functions.

    Gland nameHormone releasedFunction
    Pituitary GlandAnterior PG - Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)Involved in the production of cortisol and stimulation of the adrenal glands.
    Posterior PG - Oxytocin and VasopressinInvolved in the contraction of the uterus at birth and water conservation and blood vessels, respectively
    Adrenal GlandAdrenal Medulla - Adrenaline and NoradrenalineInvolves in the fight or flight response. Supports oxygen intake, blood flow, increased heart rate and blood pressure maintenance.
    Adrenal Cortex - Cortisol
    OvariesEstrogenInvolved in the development of sexual characteristics in females.
    ProgesteroneInvolved in the preparation of the uterus and the breasts for reproductory reasons.
    TesticlesTestosteroneInvolved in the development of sexual characteristics in males.
    Thyroid GlandThyroxineSupports the body's metabolism and also affects growth and maturation.
    Thymus GlandThymulinAnti-inflammatory effects, involved in T-cells.
    Pineal GlandMelatoninMelatonin release at night supports sleep.

    Endocrine System Diseases

    There are certain diseases associated with failures of the endocrine system. These failures can take place due to two reasons:

    1. A change in the level of hormones secreted by a gland.
    2. A change in the gland's receptors sensitivity leads to the gland not responding correctly to stimulation.

    Hormone imbalance can influence several conditions, such as mood or fertility. Among the diseases associated with the endocrine system are diabetes, hypothyroidism and hypogonadism. Let's take a look at these diseases.

    Diabetes

    Diabetes is a metabolic condition in which glucose concentration in the blood is high. The disease is caused by issues with insulin, which is produced in the pancreas.

    There are two ways in which diabetes can occur. One is that the pancreas does not produce the necessary amount of insulin, a genetic condition, and the second is that the insulin receptors across the body present insensitivity to the hormone and less insulin is produced, a result of lifestyle choices.

    Hypothyroidism

    Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the supply of thyroid hormones is low. It can be preset due to two reasons.

    • On the one hand, the thyroid can be producing low levels of thyroid hormones.
    • While on the other hand, it could be that the thyroid-stimulating hormone is failing to achieve its function.

    The effect that hypothyroidism is manifested in symptoms of fatigue, tiredness, constipation or muscle weakness

    Hypogonadism

    Hypogonadism refers to a spectrum disorder characterised by insufficient sex hormones. Equally to the previous two disorders, hypogonadism can arise due to a low level of the production of the hormones, or due to an insensitivity of the organs to the hormone themselves. The effects that the disorder has, vary depending on the time at which hypogonadism is developed.


    The Function of the Endocrine System - Glands and hormones - Key takeaways

    • The endocrine system is responsible for transferring information via messenger molecules called hormones through the bloodstream in the body, similar to neurotransmitters.
    • Hormones have widespread effects across the body, and binding to any type of receptors that match up with the hormone.
    • The endocrine system has long-term and long-lasting effects on the regulation of biological processes.
    • Endocrine glands are organs specialised in producing hormones. Examples of endocrine glands include the thyroid, thymus, pituitary gland, pineal gland, pancreas, testicles, ovaries and adrenal glands.
    • There are certain diseases associated with the endocrine system malfunctioning, such as diabetes, hypothyroidism and hypogonadism.

    References

    1. Fig. 2: Endocrine system diagram by Spielman, R. M., Jenkins, W. J., & Lovett, M. D. (2020). 3.5 The Endocrine System. In Psychology 2e. OpenStax. https://openstax.org/books/psychology-2e/pages/3-5-the-endocrine-system.
    2. Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
    Frequently Asked Questions about The Function of the Endocrine System - Glands and hormones

    What is the function of the endocrine glands and hormones in your body?

    The endocrine system is the system responsible for the production and transmission of information in the body via messenger substances called hormones. These are produced in specialised organs called glands as well as in endocrine cells located in various organs throughout the body. Hormones are chemical molecules that pass on information in the body. 

    What are the major endocrine glands and their hormones and functions?

    Pineal gland: melatonin.
    Pituitary gland: Adrenocortical trophic hormone & Oxytocin.

    Thyroid gland: Thyroxine.

    Adrenal gland: Adrenaline, noradrenaline.

    What are glands and their functions?

    Glands are specialised organs whose function is to produce hormones. 

    What are the glands and hormones of the endocrine system?

    Some of the endocrine system's glands and hormones are the following:


    • The thyroid gland releases thyroxine.

    • The pineal gland releases melatonin.

    • The pancreas releases insulin.

    • The testicles release testosterone.

    • The ovaries release estrogen and progesterone.

    • The adrenal glands secrete epinephrine and norepinephrine. 

    What diseases are associated with the endocrine system?

    Diabetes, hypothyroidism and hypogonadism.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    True or False: The pituitary gland is the master gland.

    True or False: Hormones have one function in the body.

    Which of these is not a hormone function?

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