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The pineal gland is a small, pea-shaped gland in the brain. Its function isn’t fully understood. Researchers do know that it produces and regulates some hormones, including melatonin.
It is ectodermal in origin.
It is unpaired (Single) and is attached to epithalamus of the diencephalon. It is, therefore, also known as Epiphysis cerebri (Pituitary, attached to the hypothalamus, is called Hypophysis cerebri)
It is considered to be the ‘seat of soul’.
In a human, it starts degenerating at the age of 7-8 years.
The calcium and magnesium salts are deposited in this gland at later stages and the structure is then known as ‘brain sand’.
This gland produces single hormone melatonin which is a biogenic amine.
Melatonin is produced within the pineal gland and synthesized from the neurotransmitter serotonin. It is secreted into the cerebrospinal fluid of the third ventricle and is directed from there into the blood. Upon entering the bloodstream, melatonin can be circulated throughout the body. Melatonin is also produced by other body cells and organs including retinal cells, white blood cells, gonads, and skin.
It is derivative of amino acid – Tryptophan
It causes lighting of skin and is antagonistic to MSH.
It delays sexual maturity by inﬂuencing the development of gonads and release of gonadotropin hormones from the pituitary. Its secretion is increased during darkness.
As it delays puberty, It is also known as anti-ageing hormone (the pacemaker for ageing is, however, Thymus gland). Thymus gland). Thymus gland
It maintains the biological clock in the human body. It also maintains diurnal variations (circadian rhythm) in animals and decides the breeding season in them.
The pineal gland is involved in several functions of the body including:
- Secretion of the hormone melatonin
- Regulation of endocrine functions
- Conversion of nervous system signals to endocrine signals
- Causes sleepiness
- Influences sexual development
- Influences immune system function
- Antioxidant activity
Pineal Gland Dysfunction
Should the pineal gland begin to function abnormally, a number of problems may result. If the pineal gland is not able to produce sufficient amounts of melatonin, a person could experience insomnia, anxiety, low thyroid hormone production (hypothyroidism), menopause symptoms, or intestinal hyperactivity. If the pineal gland produces too much melatonin, a person could experience low blood pressure, abnormal function of the adrenal and thyroid glands, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a depressive disorder that some individuals experience during the winter months when sunlight is minimal.