The pineal gland is a small pine cone shaped chunk of tissue tucked in the middle of the brain. It is part of the endocrine system and produces melatonin, which is responsible for regulating the sleep/wake cycle and circadian rhythms of animals. Originally thought to be vestigial, the pineal gland's function was discovered in the 1950s in experimentation on cows.
 Pineal woo
But what it's really known for is being the home for the ghost in the machine. Rene Descartes identified it as the place where the "mind" interacts with the "brain," or "the principle seat of the soul," in his treatise on dualism. It may look cramped but just as an infinite number of angels can dance on the head of a pin so can many souls kick it in your pineal gland.
This brand of "Cartesian woo" has spawned various forms of pseudoscience in modern times. The pineal gland is a favorite of New Agers and dirty hippies. Many claim that it contains chakras or is the location of the "third eye." Regular consumers of psychedelic drugs may have an obsession with the pineal gland due to the hypothesis that it produces dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a drug (illegally) sold as a hallucinogen. There is evidence that DMT is produced naturally in the body and it has been hypothesized that it may play some role in dreaming, however, where it is produced, how much of it is produced, and how it would function neurologically is unknown. Much of this research on DMT is still highly speculative and definitely not as hard as the druggies claim.
- The Pineal Gland and Melatonin, Pathophysiology of the Endocrine System, Colorado State University
- ↑ Aaron B. Lerner, James D. Case, and Yoshiyata Takahashi. Isolation of Melatonin and 5-Methoxyindole-3-acetic Acid from Bovine Pineal Glands. The Journal of Biological Chemistry, Vol. 235, No. 7, July 1960
- ↑ Descartes and the Pineal Gland, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- ↑ J. Karkkainen et al. Potentially hallucinogenic 5-hydroxytryptamine receptor ligands bufotenine and dimethyltryptamine in blood and tissues. Scand J Clin Lab Invest. 2005;65(3):189-99.