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Behavioral Endocrinology: Hormones and Health

The hormonal system, also referred to as the endocrine system, constitutes several glands that secrete different hormones. This is usually performed in the response of a stimulus, whether external or internal. The body’s major glands include the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, pineal gland, thyroid gland, parathyroid gland, adrenal gland, pancreas, ovaries (only in females), and testes (only in males) (Konkel, 2019). Behavioral endocrinology is the study of how the physiological effects of hormones influence the development and expression of behavior (Walinga & Stangor, 2020). When glands release hormones to receptor tissues, they initiate a series of complex chain reactions to respond to specific stimuli. The endocrine system functions with the nervous system and, as a result, affects many aspects of human behavior, such as movement, waking up, and cleaning.

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Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. It is secreted by the pineal gland in the brain and released into the bloodstream. In dark conditions, the pineal gland is triggered to produce melatonin, while light conditions inhibit its production (Konkel, 2019). Consequently, the hormone helps regulate the circadian rhythm (the internal clock) and synchronize it externally with night and day (Konkel, 2019). Hence, it enables the transition to sleep and promotes consistent and quality rest. Conversely, dopamine is at the same time a hormone and neurotransmitter that controls and coordinates movement. As a result, it is infused in some drugs to help treat Parkison’s disease (Konkel, 2019). Leptin is a hormone synthesized in the adipose cells in the small intestines. It is released into the system an individual has increased body fat levels; therefore, it helps inhibit hunger and, as a result, maintain body weight. In contrast, ghrelin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas and released when the stomach is empty; hence, it increases appetite. Leptin functions to reduce appetite, while ghrelin increases appetite. Corticosteroids are a group of steroid hormones that are secreted by the adrenal cortex. They help increase the breakdown of fats and glucose to produce energy.

Serotonin, an essential chemical, and neurotransmitter that functions to regulate mood. It is also referred to as a happy chemical; thus, low neurotransmitter levels are associated with mental health. Estrogen, the female sex hormone, is primarily produced in the ovaries and plays a crucial role in developing female sexual characteristics during puberty (Walinga & Stangor, 2020). Estrogen is made up of a group of hormones – estradiol, estrone, and estriol- that regulate menstruation and pregnancy. Estrogen is often contrasted to testosterone, which is the primary male sex hormone secreted in the testes. Testosterone is responsible for male sexual characteristics, including the growth of facial hair, muscle mass, and a deep voice.

Cortisol is a hormone released by the adrenal glands, and it helps the body responds to stress. It is sometimes referred to as the stress hormone as its levels increase in the body during high-stress situations to give the body a natural energy boost (Konkel, 2019). Nevertheless, excess or inadequate cortisol concentrations for a prolonged period can potentially affect both physical and mental health (Walinga & Stangor, 2020). Adrenaline and noradrenaline are hormones released by the adrenal glands in response to acute stress. Their release triggers a chain of reactions, resulting in increased heart rate, blood pressure, and glucose breakdown, and fats for energy. As a result, this will stimulate a fight or flight response.

Overall, the before-mentioned hormones are illustrated to influence behavior in a variety of ways. These include sleeping, walking, mood changes, appetite, energy production to perform daily chores, menstruation in women, and growth of facial hair in men, among others. Nonetheless, other hormones, such as insulin, prolactin, progesterone, and adrenocorticotropic hormone, influence physiology, and functioning.


Konkel, L. (2019). Hormones and your health: An essential guide. Web.

Walinga, J., & Stangor, C. (2020). Introduction to psychology (1st ed.). Web.

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