The endocrine system refers to the collection of glands of an organism that secrete hormones directly into the circulatory system to be carried toward a distant target organ.
The major endocrine glands include the pineal gland, pituitary gland, pancreas, ovaries, testes, thyroid gland, parathyroid gland, hypothalamus, gastrointestinal tract and adrenal glands. The endocrine system is in contrast to the exocrine system, which secretes its hormones using ducts. Examples of exocrine glands include the sweat glands, salivary glands, mammary glands, and liver. The endocrine system is an information signal system like the nervous system, yet its effects and mechanism are classifiably different. The endocrine system's effects are slow to initiate, and prolonged in their response, lasting from a few hours up to weeks. The nervous system sends information very quickly, and responses are generally short lived. In vertebrates, the hypothalamus is the neural control center for all endocrine systems. The field of study dealing with the endocrine system and its disorders is endocrinology, a branch of internal medicine.