Aspects of Evolution of the Pineal Organ

  • Andreas Oksche
Part of the NATO Advanced Science Institutes Series book series (NSSA, volume 65)


The pineal organ is an ancient derivative and integral component of the brain. (Recent comprehensive reviews have been published by Kappers and Pévet, 1979; Leonhardt, 1980; Vollrath, 1981; Oksche and Pévet, 1981.) Phylogenetically it has changed from a ‘third eye’ endowed with photoreceptor cells to an endocrine gland influenced by visual stimuli from the retina (Fig. 1). The pineal organ has the capacity to translate photic (and apparently also other sensory and neural) information into a neuroendocrine response (cf. Wurtman et al., 1968. In a subsequent step this neuroendocrine message acts on various target organs. The unusual anatomical and physiological characteristics of the pineal organ make it an interesting subject of analysis both in brain research and endocrinology. In evolutionary terms the pineal organ displays features of a photoreceptor, biological clock, and endocrine gland (cf. Oksche and Pévet, 1981). It is a member of the group of circumventricular organs (Vigh and Vigh-Teichmann, 1981) and a component of the photoneuroendocrine systems (Oksche and Hartwig, 1979). The pinealocyte can be considered as a paraneuron (Ueck and Wake, 1979) originating from a special type of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)-contacting neuron (Vigh and Vigh-Teichmann, 1981; see for references) displaying both sensory and secretory properties (i.e. a sensoneuroendocrine cell).


Pineal Gland Outer Segment Photoreceptor Cell Pineal Organ Frontal Organ 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreas Oksche
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Anatomy and CytobiologyUniversity of GiessenGiessenFederal Republic of Germany

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