A Detailed Exploration of the Human Brain Part 2: The Brainstem

Hello All. This is a continuation of my multi-post series on the human brain. Instead of writing in the format that I normally do (write one blog post about a topic that I find intriguing. Over the next few weeks I am going to explore different aspects of the brain such as functionality, memories, diseases involving the brain, and other interesting topics. Today we will explore the different parts of the brain.

Know your brain: Brainstem — Neuroscientifically Challenged

There are 3 main parts of the brain. The brainstem, cerebrum, and cerebellum. In this blog post we will focus primarily on the Brainstem.

Medulla oblongata - Wikipedia
  1. The Cerebrum – The Cerebrum is the largest part of the brain, and consists of the left and right hemispheres. The cerebrum controls “higher functions” such as the interpretation of the senses, as well as emotions and “fine movement”.
  • The Brainstem – The brainstem connects the cerebrum and cerebellum to the spinal cord. Automatic functions such as breathing, and digestion are performed by the brainstem
  • The Cerebellum – The Cerebellum is in charge of muscle movements. It is located underneath the Cerebrum, and also controls balance as well as posture.

The Brainstem

As previously mentioned, the brainstem connects the cerebrum and cerebellum to the spinal cord. The brainstem really serves as an “information highway”. All information from throughout the body is relayed through the brainstem. Libretexts.org states, “The ascending pathways from the body to the brain are the sensory pathways, including the spinothalamic tract for pain and temperature sensation and the dorsal column, fasciculus gracilis, and cuneatus for touch, proprioception, and pressure sensation. The facial sensations have similar pathways and also travel in the spinothalamic tract and the medial lemniscus. Descending tracts are upper motor neurons destined to synapse on lower motor neurons in the ventral horn and intermediate horn of the spinal cord. In addition, upper motor neurons originate in the brain stem’s vestibular, red, tectal, and reticular nuclei, which also descend and synapse in the spinal cord. The brainstem also has integrative functions, including cardiovascular system control, respiratory control, pain sensitivity control, alertness, awareness, and consciousness.” Automatic functions such as breathing, and digestion are performed by the brainstem. The brainstem consists of 3 distinct structures: the midbrain, medulla, and pons.

This image presents the structures of the brainstem and the ...

The Different Structures within the brainstem

The Medulla – The medulla, also known as the medulla oblongata is located in the lower part of the brainstem. It continuous down into the spinal cord. The medulla houses respiratory, vasometer, and cardiac centers. These centers regulate functions such as breathing, as well as blood pressure and heartrate.

The Midbrain – The midbrain is in charge of/associated with motor control, hearing, sleep cycles and vision

The Pons – The pons serves as a relay center. It contains tracts which direct/relay information and signals from the cerebrum to the cerebellum by way of the medulla. The pons also contains tracts to the thalamus. The thalamus’ role is described as “relaying of sensory signals, including motor signals to the cerebral cortex and the regulation of consciousness, sleep, and alertness.”. Attached below is a phenomenal video that outlines the role of the thalamus.

This is a great video which outlines the function of the Thalamus

This post is written by Yashraj Banga


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