Physiological processes are under nervous system as well as endocrine control and a gland adjacent to the pituitary, called the hypothalamus, mediates between the two systems. The hypothalamus secretes pituitary-regulating substances in response to nervous system stimuli including smell, taste, pain, and emotions. Thus, stress, cold, heat, and other stimuli release CRF, or adrenocorticotropic hormone-releasing factor, from the hypothalamus, causing ACTH to be produced by the pituitary, which in turn stimulates the production of the adrenal hormone cortisol. Similar chemical regulatory mechanisms operate in the regulation of the sex and thyroid hormones. Hypothalamic activity is also regulated by other body substances, e.g., cortisol inhibits the production of hypothalamic CRF.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.