Essential tips for learning the anterior pituitary hormones

academics biology College MCAT
By Eden

Learning the anterior pituitary hormones for your biology class or the MCAT can be a little overwhelming. It is easy to get lost in the weeds and struggle to see how it all connects. One thing that helped me when I was learning the anterior pituitary hormones was to visualize the connections between the most important structures. This both helped me to memorize their function and to see how changes in one part of the pathway may have downstream effects. I often have students practice the pituitary hormones by filling in a simplified blank diagram of the hormones and where they act.

Included in this blog post is a very brief overview of the anterior pituitary hormone system, a blank and completed worksheet for learning the names of the hormones and how they fit into the bigger picture, and a brief review of a couple of useful mneumonics.

A (very) brief review of the anterior pituitary hormone system

The hypothalamus is the bridge between the nervous and endocrine systems. The hypothalamus regulates the anterior pituitary gland through the release of tropic hormones into the hypophyseal portal system, which directly connects the hypothalamus to the anterior pituitary. When a hormone from the hypothalamus arrives at the anterior pituitary, it will regulate the gland by either triggering or blocking the release of an anterior pituitary hormone. Once a hormone is released from the anterior pituitary, it will go on to act on other endocrine tissues (in the case of tropic hormones) or to act directly on some other part of the body (in the case of direct hormones). 

Mnemonic Device

Once you know the anterior pituitary hormones, it is often easy to learn the names of the rest of the steps in that hormone pathway. Here is a mnemonic that can be used to memorize the anterior pituitary hormones: FLAT PEG

FLAT PEG: FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone), LH (Leutinizing Hormone), ACTH (Adrenocorticotropic Hormone), TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone), Prolactin, Endophins, and Growth Hormones.

This mnemonic is also useful because it can help you remember which hormones belong to which class. There are two important classes of hormones: tropic (hormones that act on other endocrine glands) and direct (hormones that act directly on some other, non-endocrine, part of the body). The FLAT hormones are all tropic hormones (you can remember this by picturing a flat, tropical beach) and the PEG hormones are direct (you can remember this because you can picture a peg going directly into a piece of wood). Additionally, the FLAT, or tropic hormones, are often referred to by acronyms (FSH, LH, ACTH, TSH), while the PEG, or direct hormones, are usually referred to by their full names.

Practice Worksheet

Here is a practice worksheet starting with the hormones released by the hypothalamus. Feel free to screenshot these images and print them to practice with! 

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***FSH and LH serve different functions in men and women

Note: the full pathway for the release of endorphins is too complex to fit into this brief review. For most introductory courses it will be sufficient to know what is included on this chart.

Good luck and happy studying!

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