Pineal gland is a small gland located within the brain. It is a tiny pine cone located near the center of the brain between the two hemispheres.
Pineal gland produces melatonin hormone which controls the body rhythms and in particular your internal body clock and sleep and wake patterns.
Pineal gland function:
The pineal gland contains number of peptides, including TRH, GnRH, and vascotin, along with number of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, somatostatin, histamine and nor-epinephrine. The major hormone in the pineal gland is melatonin.
Melatonin increases the deeper stages of sleep and stage four sleep. As sleep patterns are improved, it serves to energize the body and improve mood. Melatonin has antioxidant effects which help in preventing disease qualities.
Melatonin controls over stimulation of the sympathetic nerves to lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate, thus reducing the impact on heart.
It also alleviates mental stress, improves sleep and adjusts the body’s biological clock, strengthens immunity and increases body’s resistance to infections and viruses.
The pineal gland is stimulated to make and release melatonin in the dark. The production of melatonin is reduced in day light. The retina detects the light and directly signals and entrains the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN).
The circadian signals are relayed to the spinal cord and out via the sympathetic system to superior cervical ganglia (SCG) and from there into pineal gland when fibers project from the SCN to the paraventricular nuclei (PVN).
It has been suggested that melatonin is beneficial in the treatment of jet lag, reduces the development of cancerous cells and slows down the aging process.
This gland is large in children and begins to shrink at puberty. Melatonin acts to keep child’s body from undergoing sexual masturbation, since sexual hormones such as luteotropin plays an important role in the development of sexual organs.
In elderly people with sleep disturbance, melatonin production is decreased compared with age-matched controls. The activity of pineal gland decreases with advancing age and more with Alzheimer’s disease. Sleep disturbance is an important factor of Alzheimer’s disease and melatonin can treat some of the features.
Pineal gland tumor:
Pineal gland tumors are rare and occur most often in children and young adults. Germ cell tumors are most common and arise from embryonic remnants of germ cells. These tumors are malignant and can be life threatening.
Pineal gland tumors cause vomiting, headaches, and seizures due to the increase in pressure within the head that result from the enlarging tumor mass.
Pineal gland tumor can compress the part of the brain or they can cause disruption in the endocrine system, the system that controls hormones and includes the pineal gland.
The treatment for pineal gland tumor is surgery. The surgical removal of the tumor will provide tissue samples, which are analyzed under a microscope to provide an accurate diagnosis. In case of benign tumors, complete resection usually provides a cure.