Difference between the Endocrine and the Nervous System

Updated on June 27, 2017

The endocrine system and the nervous system closely work together to regulate biological processes in the body. But while they may bear similarities, they are completely different in a number of ways. This article provides valuable information on the differences between the two.

Definitions

Endocrine
The male and female endocrine system

The endocrine system is the collection of hormone-secreting glands in the body, including the thyroid gland, pituitary gland, adrenal glands, parathyroid glands, and pancreas. It also includes the testicles (in male) and the ovaries (in female).

The hormones released by the endocrine system are vital in regulating metabolism, tissue function, sexual function, mood, and growth and development. Once secreted, the hormones are released to the circulatory system, which acts as a carrier of hormones to targeted organs.

nervous system
The central and peripheral nervous system

The nervous system, on the other hand, is responsible for controlling bodily functions. It is made up of a complex network of nerves and cells that transmit signals to and from the body.

The nervous system has two major divisions: the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. The brain and the spinal cord are a part of the central nervous system, while the autonomic and the somatic nervous systems are sub-parts of the peripheral nervous system.

Endocrine vs Nervous System

So what’s the difference between the endocrine and the nervous system?

Firstly, the endocrine system is the collection of hormone-secreting glands in the body, while the nervous system is a complex network of nerves and cells that transmit signals to and from the body.

Secondly, the endocrine system is made up of the thyroid gland, pituitary gland, adrenal glands, parathyroid glands, pancreas, testicles (in males), and ovaries (in females). The nervous system, on the other hand, has two major divisions: the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord; and the peripheral nervous system, which is further subdivided into the autonomic nervous system and the somatic nervous system.

The endocrine and the nervous system respond to stimuli in different ways. Once triggered, the endocrine system secretes hormones that are carried to targeted tissues and organs. Meanwhile, the nervous system sends signals through neurotransmitters or action potentials.

The circulatory system carries the hormones released by the endocrine system to targeted tissues and organs. The nervous system, by contrast, uses neurons to send signals to the body.

Between the two, the nervous system responds at a faster pace. However, its effects on the body are short-lived.

Lastly, the endocrine system is made up of different organs that are not physically connected, while the nervous system consists of interconnected parts.

Comparison Chart

Endocrine SystemNervous System
A collection of hormone-secreting glands in the bodyA complex network of nerves and cells
Made up of the thyroid gland, pituitary gland, adrenal glands, parathyroid glands, pancreas, testicles (in males), and ovaries (in females)

Made up of two major divisions: the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system (autonomic and somatic nervous systems)

Responds to stimuli by secreting hormonesResponds to stimuli by sending signals through neurotransmitters

Transmits signals through the circulatory system

Transmits signals through neurons

Responses are slower but long-livedResponses are quicker but short-lived
Parts are not physically connectedParts are interconnected