The Pineal Gland

  • Edward A. Zbella
  • Norbert Gleicher

Abstract

Since the first description of the pineal gland over 2000 years ago by the anatomist Herophilus, the function and reputation of this tiny organ have been associated more with philosophical conjecture than with scientific foundation. Early anatomists regarded the pineal gland as “the valve that controlled the flow of memories, stored in the rear brain ventricle, forward to the consciousness serving part of the brain.”1 The 17th-century philosopher Descartes regarded the human body as “an earthly machine presided over by the rational soul which occupied the pineal gland (seat of the soul), the little gland in the substance of the brain.”2 Another metaphysical epithet applied to the pineal gland because of its reputed ability to influence reproduction was the “chastity gland.”3 Up until the middle of the 20th century, debate about the function of the pineal gland varied between the extreme opinions that the gland was either a functionless vestige or a multipotent endocrine organ. During the last 25 years, research has confirmed that the pineal gland is a true secretory structure capable of producing a variety of biologically active substances and that pathologic tumors may arise within its structure. To date, the precise role of the pineal gland in the human is still to be elucidated, and its function in pregnancy is inferential.

Keywords

Dopamine Serotonin Retina Polypeptide Histamine 

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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edward A. Zbella
  • Norbert Gleicher

There are no affiliations available

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