The pituitary is a small but extremely important gland in the body. It's often referred to as the "master gland." The pituitary gland lies outside the dura (outermost membrane covering the brain and spinal cord) and rests in the sella turcica (a small depression at the base of the skull) below the optic chiasm. It is connected to the hypothalamus by the pituitary stalk and is divided into two portions, the anterior and posterior lobes. The hypothalamus actively senses the external and internal environment and directly communicates by producing hormones stored in the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland and by sending signals to release hormones made by the anterior lobe. These hormones are small molecular messengers that allow different organs in the body to communicate with each other. The pituitary lies almost directly behind the area between the eyes and can be accessed surgically through the back of the nose.
The pituitary gland releases hormones that influence most systems in the body. These hormones directly affect the functions of the thyroid gland, the adrenal gland, and the gonads, as well as directing growth, milk production, and water balance.
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