Is the Pineal Gland our "Third Eye"?


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            If you have ever heard of the "Third Eye" then you know it to be your spiritual eye. However, there is a gland that is located in the center of the brain called the Pineal Gland. According to Descartes he called the Pineal Gland the "seat of the soul". Descartes was obsessed with exploring who we are as humans, he wanted to know everything from how we perceive the world, to how we exist, and whether or not our senses manipulate or deceive us. There is a long history with the Pineal Gland. For a long time scientists ignored conducting research on it because they did not believe in exploring supernatural phenomena and relating it scientifically.  However over the years scientists finally decided to look into the Pineal Gland. Aaron Lerner in 1958 came across melatonin which is a molecule that the pineal gland produces from serotonin which is another neurotransmitter (Vey 1). Melatonin is known to calm us and help us sleep. It took a long time for researchers to realize how small the gland is and how it is located deep in the middle of the brain where it can sense darkness or light. "But it was later discovered that there was a link to the pineal gland from the retinas which, oddly enough, also contained melatonin. In no time the pineal gland was being called "the third eye" and, because of its location at one of the seven chakras, it was reputed to be the center of spiritual and psychic energy" (Vey 1).

           Many anatomists claim that during our youth the pineal gland is most active, usually prior to puberty. However, the pineal gland after puberty starts to calcify, "accumulating what is called 'brain sand'. Though it is showing the process of this calcification, it is not destroying the making of melatonin. But there are factors that reduce the function of the pineal gland. Studies have shown that melatonin is important for the immune system. This is serious because discoveries have come to show that melatonin is associated with lower levels of breast and prostate cancer and regulates our blood and sugar metabolism. SAD which is Season Affect Disorder, is linked to scarce levels of serotonin and melatonin. In saying this, the researchers came to a possible realization that with the lack of melatonin and the effects it can have on one's health can possibly stray you away from feeling or achieving enlightenment.

 

3 Comments

Hi Alexandria!
I really like the idea that our pineal gland might be our 'third eye'. Also when I read this article, I was reminded of the article we discussed in class about dim artificial light at night causing depression in hamsters and I looked into that and another article by CBS News says that the hamsters produced an excessive amount of a protein called TNF (tumor necrosis factor) that causes depression when pumped continuously to the body and that when they were given a protein inhibitor for TNF, their depression wasn't any greater than the control group. I wonder if that plays any part in our bodies (we can't know for sure since the results were measured by having the hamsters' brains removed).
Also I looked into SAD and found that though scientists aren't exactly sure about what causes it, but
this article from Bryn Mawr says that when the body doesn't receive enough natural light the hypothalamus does not inhibit the gland's production of melatonin - causing us to be drowsy. Also from what the article said I don't think the gland itself senses light and dark, but instead a region of the hypothalamus does and then sends signals to the gland about whether to produce or inhibit the production of hormones.
Either way, it would be ideal if there were a substitute for natural light, but I couldn't find any evidence of a substitute so far.

Hi Alexandria!
I really like the idea that our pineal gland might be our 'third eye'. Also when I read this article, I was reminded of the article we discussed in class about dim artificial light at night causing depression in hamsters and I looked into that and another article by CBS News says that the hamsters produced an excessive amount of a protein called TNF (tumor necrosis factor) that causes depression when pumped continuously to the body and that when they were given a protein inhibitor for TNF, their depression wasn't any greater than the control group. I wonder if that plays any part in our bodies (we can't know for sure since the results were measured by having the hamsters' brains removed).

Also I looked into SAD and found that though scientists aren't exactly sure about what causes it, but this article from Bryn Mawr says that when the body doesn't receive enough natural light the hypothalamus does not inhibit the gland's production of melatonin - causing us to be drowsy. Also from what the article said I don't think the gland itself senses light and dark, but instead a region of the hypothalamus does and then sends signals to the gland about whether to produce or inhibit the production of hormones.
Either way, it would be ideal if there were a substitute for natural light, but I couldn't find any evidence of a substitute so far.

UGH! For some reasons my links won't work! Here they are, in the order that I wrote them:

1)http://www.personal.psu.edu/afr3/blogs/SIOW_Reflections/Pop%20Quiz%201%20_Sept%206%202011.pdf

2)http://www.cbsnews.com/news/sleeping-with-dim-light-may-cause-depressive-behaviors-in-rodents-what-about-humans/

3)http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/neuro00/web1/Edmundson.html

Sorry!

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