The key difference between nervous system and endocrine system is that the nervous system uses electrical action potentials along the neurons to transmit signals to the target body parts while the endocrine system uses chemicals called hormones along the bloodstream to send signals to the target cells and organs.
Nervous system and endocrine system are the two main organ systems of our body that are responsible for the regulation of all the activities within the body. These systems facilitate the communication between cells, tissues and organs. Also, they use different mechanisms for this purpose. That is, the nervous system uses electrical signals or nerve impulses to transmit signals while the endocrine system uses chemicals such as hormones to send signals to the target body parts. Furthermore, the nervous system consists of a network of nerve cells. Whereas, the endocrine system consists of a set of glands.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Nervous System
3. What is Endocrine System
4. Similarities Between Nervous System and Endocrine System
5. Side by Side Comparison – Nervous System vs Endocrine System in Tabular Form
What is Nervous System?
Nervous system is one of the major organ systems of the organisms, which is responsible for the coordination of biological activities inside the body. It consists of a network of specialized cells called neurons. There are two major parts of the nervous system namely the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). In vertebrates, the CNS comprises brain, spinal cord, and retina while the PNS includes the sensory neurons, ganglia, and connecting neurons.
Though the neurons do not connect physically with each other, their interaction occurs in a highly complex manner for efficient signal transmission to all parts of the body. During the nervous system action, electrochemical waves or pulses generate and travel along the neurons through the neural pathways in order to trigger the necessary actions. The nervous system uses chemical messengers called neurotransmitters to pass a signal from one neuron to the next neuron. Some nervous activities can be controlled while some are autonomous.
The nervous system is one of the most complex systems in vertebrates, but some lower taxa such as Cnidaria have only a simple nervous system. Placozoans and Mesozoans do not even have a nervous system, but other means of signal passing are present. The human nervous system is the most developed with the presence of the largest brain among all the other animals in the world. Nervous system is one of the great gifts received by a human from nature.
What is Endocrine System?
Endocrine system is a discrete set of glands that secrete different types of hormones to the circulatory system in order to regulate the functions of the body. Each gland of the endocrine system is responsible for the secretion of different hormones, and those hormones trigger different activities in different places in the body. Hypothalamus, pineal body, anterior and posterior pituitary glands, adrenal gland, and thyroid gland are the main glands of the endocrine system while there are some other associated glands, as well.
The associated endocrine glands located in the kidneys, alimentary system, gonads, and some other places. The interesting fact about the endocrine system is that it is a chemical information system. Growth and development, metabolism and temper are the primary functions regulated by the endocrine system. The action of hormones of the endocrine system is slow but long lasting. These prolonged functions of the hormones could last for about two weeks sometimes, but the time to initiate the function from the time of secretion could go up to two hours.
What are the Similarities Between Nervous System and Endocrine System?
- Both Nervous System and Endocrine System transmit signals to target organs.
- They are important organ systems.
- Nervous System and Endocrine System facilitate communication between cells.
- Both use chemical messengers.
What is the Difference Between Nervous System and Endocrine System?
We have different organ systems in our body. Among them, the nervous system and endocrine system are two vital organ systems. Both systems involve signal transmission throughout the whole body parts to regulate different activities. However, the nervous system consists of a network of neurons while the endocrine system consists of several glands. This is one difference between nervous system and endocrine system. The main difference between nervous system and endocrine system is that through the means of electrical action potentials, the nervous system sends signals to target organs while through the means of chemicals known as hormones, endocrine system sends signals to the target cells and tissues. Furthermore, neurons help to transmit signals while bloodstream helps to transport hormones to the target places. Another difference between nervous system and endocrine system is that the action of nervous system is immediate while the action of endocrine system is slow.
The below infographic presents more details on the difference between nervous system and endocrine system.
Summary – Nervous System vs Endocrine System
Nervous system has neurons while endocrine system has several different glands. Both these systems are important to regulate the bodily activities. Neurons and neurotransmitters facilitate the transmission of nerve impulses in the nervous system. On the other hand, hormones travelling through the circulatory system involved in the transmission of signals of the endocrine system. Action of the nervous system is fast but not last for a prolonged period. In contrast, action of the endocrine system is slow but remains for a prolonged period. This is the difference between nervous system and endocrine system.
1.Zimmermann, Kim Ann. “Nervous System: Facts, Function & Diseases.” LiveScience, Purch, 14 Feb. 2018. Available here
2.“Endocrine System Anatomy, Function, Organs & Glands.” EMedicineHealth – Health and Medical Information Produced by Doctors. Available here