Pituitary stalk

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Pituitary stalk
Pituitary Stalk.png
The pituitary stalk is the thin vertical blue portion.
Gehirn, basal - beschriftet lat.svg
Basal view of a human brain (Infundibulum labeled third from the top on right)
Latin infundibulum neurohypophyseos
NeuroNames 408
NeuroLex ID birnlex_1248
TA A11.1.00.007
FMA 74635
Anatomical terms of neuroanatomy

The pituitary stalk (also known as the infundibular stalk, Fenderson's funnel, or simply the infundibulum) is the connection between the hypothalamus and the posterior pituitary. The floor of the third ventricle is prolonged downward as a funnel-shaped recess—the infundibular recess—into the infundibulum, where the apex of the pituitary is attached. [1] [2] It passes through the dura mater of the diaphragma sellae as it carries axons from the magnocellular neurosecretory cells of the hypothalamus down to the posterior pituitary where they release their neurohypophysial hormones, oxytocin and vasopressin, into the blood.


This connection is called the hypothalamo-hypophyseal tract or hypothalamo-neurohypophyseal tract.

Damage to the pituitary stalk blocks the release of antidiuretic hormone, resulting in polydypsia (abusive water intake) and polyuria (excessive urination).

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An infundibulum is a funnel-shaped cavity or organ.

Pituitary gland Endocrine gland at the base of the brain

In vertebrate anatomy, the pituitary gland, or hypophysis, is an endocrine gland, about the size of a pea and weighing 0.5 grams (0.018 oz) in humans. It is a protrusion off the bottom of the hypothalamus at the base of the brain. The hypophysis rests upon the hypophysial fossa of the sphenoid bone in the center of the middle cranial fossa and is surrounded by a small bony cavity covered by a dural fold. The anterior pituitary is a lobe of the gland that regulates several physiological processes. The intermediate lobe synthesizes and secretes melanocyte-stimulating hormone. The posterior pituitary is a lobe of the gland that is functionally connected to the hypothalamus by the median eminence via a small tube called the pituitary stalk.

Hypothalamus Area of the brain below the thalamus

The hypothalamus is a portion of the brain that contains a number of small nuclei with a variety of functions. One of the most important functions of the hypothalamus is to link the nervous system to the endocrine system via the pituitary gland. The hypothalamus is located below the thalamus and is part of the limbic system. In the terminology of neuroanatomy, it forms the ventral part of the diencephalon. All vertebrate brains contain a hypothalamus. In humans, it is the size of an almond. The hypothalamus is responsible for the regulation of certain metabolic processes and other activities of the autonomic nervous system. It synthesizes and secretes certain neurohormones, called releasing hormones or hypothalamic hormones, and these in turn stimulate or inhibit the secretion of hormones from the pituitary gland. The hypothalamus controls body temperature, hunger, important aspects of parenting and attachment behaviours, thirst, fatigue, sleep, and circadian rhythms. The hypothalamus derives its name from Greek ὑπό, under and θάλαμος, chamber.

Anterior pituitary Anterior lobe of the pituitary gland

A major organ of the endocrine system, the anterior pituitary is the glandular, anterior lobe that together with the posterior lobe makes up the pituitary gland (hypophysis). The anterior pituitary regulates several physiological processes, including stress, growth, reproduction, and lactation. Proper functioning of the anterior pituitary and of the organs it regulates can often be ascertained via blood tests that measure hormone levels.

Third ventricle Ventricle of the brain located between the two thalami

The third ventricle is one of four connected fluid-filled cavities comprising the ventricular system within the mammalian brain. It is a median cleft in the diencephalon between the two thalami, and is filled with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

Posterior pituitary Posterior lobe of the pituitary gland

The posterior pituitary is the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland which is part of the endocrine system. The posterior pituitary is not glandular as is the anterior pituitary. Instead, it is largely a collection of axonal projections from the hypothalamus that terminate behind the anterior pituitary, and serve as a site for the secretion of neurohypophysial hormones directly into the blood. The hypothalamic–neurohypophyseal system is composed of the hypothalamus, posterior pituitary, and these axonal projections.

Supraoptic nucleus

The supraoptic nucleus (SON) is a nucleus of magnocellular neurosecretory cells in the hypothalamus of the mammalian brain. The nucleus is situated at the base of the brain, adjacent to the optic chiasm. In humans, the SON contains about 3,000 neurons.

Paraventricular nucleus of hypothalamus

The paraventricular nucleus is a nucleus in the hypothalamus. It is a group of neurons that can be activated by physiological changes including stress. Many PVN neurons project directly to the posterior pituitary where they release oxytocin into the general circulation. The supraoptic nucleus releases vasopressin. Both the PVN and the supraoptic nucleus do produce small amounts of the other hormone, ADH and Oxytocin respectively. Other PVN neurons control various anterior pituitary functions, while still others directly regulate appetite and autonomic functions in the brainstem and spinal cord.

Arcuate nucleus

The arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus is an aggregation of neurons in the mediobasal hypothalamus, adjacent to the third ventricle and the median eminence. The arcuate nucleus includes several important and diverse populations of neurons that help mediate different neuroendocrine and physiological functions, including neuroendocrine neurons, centrally projecting neurons, and astrocytes. The populations of neurons found in the arcuate nucleus are based on the hormones they secrete or interact with and are responsible for hypothalamic function, such as regulating hormones released from the pituitary gland or secreting their own hormones. Neurons in this region are also responsible for integrating information and providing inputs to other nuclei in the hypothalamus or inputs to areas outside this region of the brain. These neurons, generated from the ventral part of the periventricular epithelium during embryonic development, locate dorsally in the hypothalamus, becoming part of the ventromedial hypothalamic region. The function of the arcuate nucleus relies on its diversity of neurons, but its central role is involved in homeostasis. The arcuate nucleus provides many physiological roles involved in feeding, metabolism, fertility, and cardiovascular regulation.

Median eminence below the hypothalamus of the brain

The median eminence, part of the inferior boundary of the hypothalamus in the brain, is attached to the infundibulum. The median eminence is a small swelling on the tuber cinereum, posterior to and atop the pituitary stalk; it lies in the area roughly bounded on its posterolateral region by the cerebral peduncles, and on its anterolateral region by the optic chiasm.

Endocrine gland

Endocrine glands are ductless glands of the endocrine system that secrete their products, hormones, directly into the blood. The major glands of the endocrine system include the pineal gland, pituitary gland, pancreas, ovaries, testes, thyroid gland, parathyroid gland, hypothalamus and adrenal glands. The hypothalamus and pituitary glands are neuroendocrine organs.

Pickardt syndrome Rare form of tertiary hypothyroidism

Pickardt syndrome denotes a rare form of tertiary hypothyroidism that is caused by interruption of the portal veins connecting hypothalamus and pituitary.

A neurohormone is any hormone produced and released by neuroendocrine cells into the blood. By definition of being hormones, they are secreted into the circulation for systemic effect, but they can also have a role of neurotransmitter or other roles such as autocrine (self) or paracrine (local) messenger.

Neuroendocrine cells are cells that receive neuronal input and, as a consequence of this input, release message molecules (hormones) into the blood. In this way they bring about an integration between the nervous system and the endocrine system, a process known as neuroendocrine integration. An example of a neuroendocrine cell is a cell of the adrenal medulla, which releases adrenaline to the blood. The adrenal medullary cells are controlled by the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system. These cells are modified postganglionic neurons. Autonomic nerve fibers lead directly to them from the central nervous system. The adrenal medullary hormones are kept in vesicles much in the same way neurotransmitters are kept in neuronal vesicles. Hormonal effects can last up to ten times longer than those of neurotransmitters. Sympathetic nerve fiber impulses stimulate the release of adrenal medullary hormones. In this way the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system and the medullary secretions function together.

Neuroendocrinology is the branch of biology which studies the interaction between the nervous system and the endocrine system, that is how the brain regulates the hormonal activity in the body. The nervous and endocrine systems often act together in a process called neuroendocrine integration, to regulate the physiological processes of the human body. Neuroendocrinology arose from the recognition that the brain, especially the hypothalamus, controls secretion of pituitary gland hormones, and has subsequently expanded to investigate numerous interconnections of the endocrine and nervous systems.

Growth hormone–releasing hormone (GHRH), also known as somatocrinin or by several other names in its endogenous forms and as somatorelin (INN) in its pharmaceutical form, is a releasing hormone of growth hormone (GH). It is a 44-amino acid peptide hormone produced in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus.

Tuber cinereum

The tuber cinereum is a hollow eminence of the middle–ventral hypothalamus, specifically the arcuate nucleus, situated between the mammillary bodies and the optic chiasm. In addition to the ventral hypothalamus, the tuber cinereum includes the median eminence and pituitary gland. Together with the hollow itself, it is sometimes referred to as the pituitary stalk.

Hypophyseal portal system

The hypophyseal portal system is a system of blood vessels in the microcirculation at the base of the brain, connecting the hypothalamus with the anterior pituitary. Its main function is to quickly transport and exchange hormones between the hypothalamus arcuate nucleus and anterior pituitary gland. The capillaries in the portal system are fenestrated which allows a rapid exchange between the hypothalamus and the pituitary. The main hormones transported by the system include gonadotropin-releasing hormone, corticotropin-releasing hormone, growth hormone–releasing hormone, and thyrotropin-releasing hormone.

Neurohypophysial hormone

The neurohypophysial hormones form a family of structurally and functionally related peptide hormones. Their main representatives are oxytocin and vasopressin. They are named after the location of their release into the blood, the neurohypophysis.


  1. Grey's Anatomy
  2. Marieb, Elaine (2014). Anatomy & physiology. Glenview, IL: Pearson Education, Inc. ISBN   978-0321861580.