60 YEARS OF NEUROENDOCRINOLOGY: The structure of the neuroendocrine hypothalamus: the neuroanatomical legacy of Geoffrey Harris

    1. Alan G Watts
    1. Department of Biological Sciences, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, University of Southern California, Hedco Neuroscience Building, MC 2520, Los Angeles, California 90089‐2520, USA
    1. Correspondence should be addressed to A G Watts; Email: watts{at}usc.edu


    In November 1955, Geoffrey Harris published a paper based on the Christian A Herter Lecture he had given earlier that year at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, USA. The paper reviewed the contemporary research that was starting to explain how the hypothalamus controlled the pituitary gland. In the process of doing so, Harris introduced a set of properties that helped define the neuroendocrine hypothalamus. They included: i) three criteria that putative releasing factors for adenohypophysial hormones would have to fulfill; ii) an analogy between the representation of body parts in the sensory and motor cortices and the spatial localization of neuroendocrine function in the hypothalamus; and iii) the idea that neuroendocrine neurons are motor neurons and the pituitary stalk functions as a Sherringtonian final common pathway through which the impact of sensory and emotional events on neuroendocrine neurons must pass in order to control pituitary hormone release. Were these properties a sign that the major neuroscientific discoveries that were being made in the early 1950s were beginning to influence neuroendocrinology? This Thematic Review discusses two main points: the context and significance of Harris's Herter Lecture for how our understanding of neuroendocrine anatomy (particularly as it relates to the control of the adenohypophysis) has developed since 1955; and, within this framework, how novel and powerful techniques are currently taking our understanding of the structure of the neuroendocrine hypothalamus to new levels.

    • Received in final form 29 April 2015
    • Accepted 8 May 2015
    • Made available online as an Accepted Preprint 20 May 2015
    | Table of Contents