The Pituitary-Adrenal System

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The pituitary-adrenal system/ hypothalamic pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) is seens as the body's 'stress system', controlling levels of cortisol. Activation of the HPA occurs in response to chronic stress situations. 

The Hypothalamus

  • when stressors are perceived by the brain, a message passes to the hypothalamus (small cone-shaped part of the brain)
  • hypothalamus = control system for most of the body's hormonal system
  • activation of part of the hypothalamus - the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) - leads to production of corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF)
  • CRF released into bloodstream in repsonse to the stressor. 

The pituitary gland

  • CRF caused the pituitary to produce and release adrenocorticotrophic hormone (


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