2-Minute Neuroscience: Medulla Oblongata
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  • Release Date: 2024-04-07
  • brainstem
  • medulla
  • spinal cord
  • blood vessels
Video Introduction

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The medulla oblongata is part of the brainstem and is responsible for a number of important functions. It is involved with regulating cardiovascular and respiratory functions as well as a variety of reflexive actions like swallowing, coughing, and vomiting. It is also home to an assortment of important nuclei and cranial nerve nuclei. Finally, a number of tracts like the corticospinal and corticobulbar tracts pass through the medulla on their way from the brainstem to the spinal cord and vice versa.[1]

The medulla oblongata, or the medulla, is the lowest part of the brainstem, found below the pons and above the spinal cord. There is no clear separation between the medulla and the spinal cord; instead the spinal cord gradually transitions into the medulla. Perhaps the most important action linked to the medulla is the regulation of cardiovascular and respiratory functions. The medulla gets information about changes in blood pressure from baroreceptors, which are found inside blood vessels. This information is sent the nucleus of the solitary tract in the medulla, which initiates reflexive actions to return blood pressure to a desired range.

The medulla is also responsible for generating breathing movements and for regulating respiration to ensure there is enough oxygen in the blood. To accomplish this, chemoreceptors, which are found inside blood vessels, detect changes in oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood. When oxygen levels fall, neurons in and around the nucleus of the solitary tract and the nucleus ambiguus respond by increasing respiration.

The medulla also controls a number of other reflexive actions like swallowing, coughing, sneezing, and vomiting. It is home to the inferior olivary nuclei, which are connected to the cerebellum and involved in movement. It also contains the nucleus gracilis and nucleus cuneatus, important nuclei of the dorsal-columns medial lemniscus sensory pathway. A number of cranial nerve nuclei are also found in the medulla.

The medulla contains a number of tracts that pass from the brainstem to the spinal cord and vice versa. The corticospinal tract and corticobulbar tracts, important tracts for movement, form triangular bundles of fibers in the medulla that create ridges on the outside of the brainstem. The bundles and ridges have been termed the medullary pyramids, and because of this the corticospinal and corticobulbar tracts are often referred to as the pyramidal tracts.

  1. Nolte J. The Human Brain: An Introduction to its Functional Anatomy. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA. Elsevier; 2009.
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Challenged, N. 2-Minute Neuroscience: Medulla Oblongata. Encyclopedia. Available online: https://encyclopedia.pub/video/video_detail/1188 (accessed on 26 May 2024).
Challenged N. 2-Minute Neuroscience: Medulla Oblongata. Encyclopedia. Available at: https://encyclopedia.pub/video/video_detail/1188. Accessed May 26, 2024.
Challenged, Neuroscientifically. "2-Minute Neuroscience: Medulla Oblongata" Encyclopedia, https://encyclopedia.pub/video/video_detail/1188 (accessed May 26, 2024).
Challenged, N. (2024, April 07). 2-Minute Neuroscience: Medulla Oblongata. In Encyclopedia. https://encyclopedia.pub/video/video_detail/1188
Challenged, Neuroscientifically. "2-Minute Neuroscience: Medulla Oblongata." Encyclopedia. Web. 07 April, 2024.
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