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Chemical Eric

Dealing with the Disintegration of Central Control


Eric Ribbens
Department of Biological Sciences
Western Illinois University


This case study is designed to teach introductory biology majors about the role of the pituitary in controlling hormones. It could easily be applied or modified to fit a variety of other courses, including a non-majors introductory biology course or any of a variety of human health-related courses, particularly human anatomy and physiology. It presents an actual case of a boy who begins to show the first signs of a pituitary tumor at the age of 11. The case chronicles his symptoms and medical conditions (and crises) through age 45. By examining the effects of pituitary disruption and tracing them back to their hormonal causes, students gain an understanding of the role of the pituitary in controlling a variety of hormones as well as the cascade of effects triggered by high-level pituitary hormones.


  • To present a story of pituitary disruption, and thus bring the list of pituitary functions to life.
  • To see the effects of the pituitary on a variety of physiological functions.
  • To introduce students to problem-solving and working from data to theory.


Endocrinology; endocrine pathology; pituitary gland; hormonal dysfunction; homeostasis; luteinizing hormone; LH; follicle-stimulating hormone; FSH; tumor; pituitary adenoma; acromegaly; diabetes insipidus

Topical Areas


Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division



Type / Methods




Subject Headings

Physiology  |   Anatomy  |   Biology (General)  |   Medicine (General)  |  

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

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Answer Key

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Linda Green
Georgia Tech
Atlanta, GA
I first adapted this case for PPT/clickers two years ago, and reused it this semester. The students love it, and of the 6-8 NCCSTS case studies that I have used, I think this is the best one. I haven't tried the newer clicker version that is posted on NCCSTS, but look forward to comparing it to the one I created.

Christine Lesh
Winters Mill High School
Westminster, MD
I just used the Chemical Eric again with my anatomy class. It really helped them understand the relationship between the pituitary gland and other glands and hormonal release in the body. They particularly liked that the story was a true one.