What does ‘Endocrine System’ mean?
The human endocrine system encompasses a wide variety of glands which secrete hormones directly into the blood, which are, in turn, delivered to the right cells and organs.
In order for an organ to receive the hormone, it needs to have a receptor cell, which has certain proteins in its membrane, allowing it to “recognize” the hormone and take it in, instead of seeing it as a potentially dangerous body and rejecting it.
The main gland that controls the secretion of almost every other hormone in the body is the pituitary gland, located just underneath the brain. It signals other glands, such as the thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal, pineal or reproductive.
Once it signals them to start secreting hormones, those hormones are then further directed at a certain organ. If the hormone level is too high or too low, another hormone will be secreted, signaling the pituitary to stop sending signals to secrete said hormone.
This system between the pituitary gland, another gland and the organ that is affected by the hormones produced by that gland, is called an axis. There are many axes in the human body, and almost all of them start with the pituitary, then one of the glands mentioned above, and then one of the organs in the human body.
The axis follows something called the “negative feedback mechanism”, a very stable mechanism that is often implemented in electronics and software engineering, and it follows a simple principle – as soon as the level of something, in this case the hormone, is too high or too low, a signal is produced which either increases or decreases the production level of that hormone.
What does “Nervous System” mean?
The nervous system is another “control hub” of the human body (along with the endocrine system), spanning a wide network of neurons throughout the body, which transmit messages between the brain and other parts of the body.
These messages are basically electrical impulses which travel over the cell membrane, from one neuron to another, ultimately reaching its destination. The passage of the signal between two neurons is made easier by the existence of neurotransmitters, chemical compounds located at the junctions between two neurons, which facilitate the signal transmission.
The signal can go in two directions: either from the brain to the target body part (for example, you want to grab a tasty-looking pie, so the brain sends signals to your hand to reach out and grab a piece), or from a body part to the brain (that piece of pie you just grabbed was much hotter than you expected, so your skin cells send signals that they’re being damaged).
Since it’s electrical in nature, the entire system is very fast. It consists of the central and peripheral nervous system, where the central consists of the brain and the spinal cord, and the peripheral consists of all the other neurons in the body.
Similarities Between Endocrine and Nervous System
These two systems have several things in common, listed below:
- They’re both devoted to maintaining homeostasis
Homeostasis is the state of “inner balance”, a stable equilibrium in the complex system of human organs and tissues, dictated by various physiological processes. Both the nervous and the endocrine system serve to preserve that equilibrium.
- They regulate the activities of other cells, tissues and organs
The endocrine system through hormones, the nervous through electrical signals, they both dictate how other parts of the body will function.
- They’re both regulated by the negative feedback mechanism
It’s never a good idea to have either too many or too few hormones or neurotransmitters. Their lack or abundance is dictated by various diseases or drugs.
- They both rely on different chemical compounds in order to transmit signals
This is a relatively vague similarity, but both systems do rely on their specific chemical compounds, either the hormones in the case of the endocrine system, or the neurotransmitters, in the case of the nervous system.
Similarities Between Endocrine and Nervous System at a glance
Both the endocrine and nervous systems are crucially important parts of the human body, which are devoted to preserving homeostasis, or inner equilibrium. They’re heavily interdependent, as they both fulfill the same purpose, although through different mechanisms – sending and receiving messages in the human body. There are several other similarities as well, most notably the fact that both systems are regulated via the negative feedback mechanism.
Author: Dr. Howard Fields
Dr. Howard is a Clinical Psychologist and a Professional Writer and he has been partnering with patients to create positive change in their lives for over fifteen years. Dr. Howard integrates complementary methodologies and techniques to offer a highly personalized approach tailored to each patient.