All of the systems within the body interact with one another to keep an organism healthy. Although each system has specific functions, they are all interconnected and dependent on one another. The nervous system controls various organs of the body directly. The brain also receives information from many organs of the body and adjusts signals to these organs to maintain proper functioning.
Brain is a central part that controls all the body’s functions. The rest of the nervous system is like a network that relays messages back and forth from the brain to different parts of the body. It does this via the spinal cord, which runs from the brain down through the back. It contains threadlike nerves that branch out to every organ and body part.
Hormones are important messages both within the brain and between the brain and the body.
In addition to the nervous system, the endocrine system is a major communication system of the body. While the nervous system uses neurotransmitters as its chemical signals, the endocrine system uses hormones. The pancreas, kidneys, heart, adrenal glands, gonads, thyroid, parathyroid, thymus, and even fat are all sources of hormones. The endocrine system works in large part by acting on neurons in the brain, which controls the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland secretes factors into the blood that act on the endocrine glands to either increase or decrease hormone production. This is referred to as a feedback loop, and it involves communication from the brain to the pituitary to an endocrine gland and back to the brain. This system is very important for the activation and control of basic behavioral activities, such as sex; emotion; responses to stress; and eating, drinking, and the regulation of body functions, responding to environmental signals.
The brain has receptors for many hormones; for example, the metabolic hormones insulin, insulin-like growth factor, ghrelin, and leptin. These hormones are taken up from the blood and act to affect neuronal activity and certain aspects of neuronal structure.
In response to stress and changes in our biological clocks, such as day and night cycles and jet lag, hormones enter the blood and travel to the brain and other organs. In the brain, hormones alter the production of gene products that participate in synaptic neurotransmission as well as affect the structure of brain cells. As a result, the circuitry of the brain and its capacity for neurotransmission are changed over a course of hours to days. In this way, the brain adjusts its performance and control of behavior in response to a changing environment.
Hormones are important agents of protection and adaptation, but stress and stress hormones, such as the glucocorticoid cortisol, can also alter brain function, including the brain’s capacity to learn. Severe and prolonged stress can impair the ability of the brain to function normally for a period of time, but the brain is also capable of remarkable recovery.