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Difference Between Adrenal Medulla and Adrenal Cortex

Adrenal Medulla Vs Adrenal Cortex

It is actually very easy to differentiate the adrenal medulla from the adrenal cortex. For as long as you know your anatomy then there’s really no problem discerning the two regions. The problem is if you haven’t listened that much to your Biology teacher back in your school-age days.

Both anatomical regions are parts of the adrenal glands. These glands are located superiorly from the kidney (on top). The names of these two specific regions may as well tell its location. The adrenal cortex (being a cortex) is the outermost layer of the adrenal gland while the adrenal medulla (being a medulla) is the middle or inner layer of the adrenal gland. The former (as an outer layer) surrounds the entire medulla.

The second difference between the two is the hormones that they secrete or release. The adrenal cortex releases three kinds of hormones namely: the glucocorticoids, the mineralocorticoids and the androgens. The glucocorticoids is a group of hormones that consists of cortisol (the stress hormone). An example of a mineralocorticoid is aldosterone (the chief hormone for blood pressure regulation and water reabsorption). The last group called androgens includes the male sex hormone testosterone. The release and production of these hormones are all controlled by the master gland (pituitary gland) specifically with the help of ACTH (adrenocorticotrophic hormone).

On the other hand, the adrenal medulla is a clump of neurons that play a major role in the autonomic nerve system. It releases two major hormones namely: adrenaline (epinephrine) and noradrenaline (norepinephrine)

Because of these two hormones, their effects on the body include blood diversion from the integument (skin) to the inner organs like liver and brain, increase in overall metabolism, pupil and bronchial dilation, piloerection (hair or skin ‘stands’ like goose bumps or goose flesh), decreased clotting time, and an increased ACTH release from the anterior pituitary gland. All of these effects are more or less the same to the effect of the adrenal cortex hormones.

1. The adrenal cortex is the outermost part that covers the adrenal medulla, while the adrenal medulla is the centermost or middle portion of the adrenal gland.

2. The adrenal cortex releases various hormones (glucocorticoids, mineralocorticoids and androgens) while the adrenal medulla releases epinephrine and norepinephrine.

3. The hormones of the adrenal cortex are released by virtue of ACTH stimulation from the anterior pituitary gland while the hormones of the adrenal medulla are released because of various nerve signals for stress reaction (response).


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