Environmental Modulation of Neuroendocrine Function
This chapter discusses mechanisms by which environmental information is transformed into endocrine responses. The neuroendocrine system has a primary role in the transduction of information from the nervous system regarding changes in an animal’s environment into signals that produce the proper endocrine responses to the challenges. An understanding of the neural pathways involved in the control of seasonal changes in endocrine and reproductive activity can provide important insights into mechanisms by which an animal responds to environmental cues. Space limitations prevent us from detailing the neuroendocrine control of the gonadal axis, but there are a number of recent reviews describing the hypothalamic control of pituitary hormone secretion. The pineal gland is an essential component of the neuroendocrine axis, controlling the reproductive response of the hamster to photoperiodic information. Neuroendocrine responses to day length obviously represent evolutionary adaptation to seasonal changes in environmental conditions. Environmental stimuli affecting neuroendocrine function include various signals from parents, siblings, and other individuals within the population.