The human brain consists of three main parts which are the cerebrum, cerebellum, and brainstem. The brainstem is small and complex but it is an extremely important part of the brain. The anatomy of the brainstem connects the cerebrum to the cerebellum and spinal cord. The brainstem contains nerve pathways that provide motor and sensory functions throughout the body. Nerve tracts consist of a sequence of nerves that rapidly send messages within the brain. The nerve cell is very important to convey information to the brain. In very rare cases, diseases of the brainstem cause cranial nerve dysfunction such as brain tumors, strokes, or brain injuries and eventually result in changes in sensation, muscle weakness, vertigo, coordination problems, speech difficulty, voice changes, and others. However, you can lower the risk of developing the diseases by adopting a healthy lifestyle for example exercising and eating healthy foods. Ask a doctor has many specialists who are keen to help you to answer your inquiries about your health concern.
Major nerve pathways in the brainstem
The brainstem serves a variety of functions including conduction or transmission of electricity through the nerve pathways. The brainstem relays the information from the body to the cerebrum and cerebellum and vice versa. The ascending pathways that carry the information from the body to the brain are called sensory pathways such as spinothalamic which is located at the outer part of the brainstem involved in modulating the pain and temperature while descending pathway carries information from the brain to the body are called motor such as corticospinal which is located at the middle near the center of the brainstem involves sending messages from the cerebral cortex through the brainstem to the spinal cord and finally to the muscle while spinocerebellar is located at the lateral portion of the brainstem involves in sending messages between the cerebellum and the spinal cord, thus regulating body movement.
What are the basic functions of the brainstem?
- Act as a tube pathway of nerves in and out of the brain
- To home for the cranial nerve nuclei productions
- Carry out important functions of several systems
How does the brainstem perform?
The brainstem involves in regulating the heartbeat, heart function, consciousness, blood pressure, sleep as well as pathways for communication between the brain and the spinal cord. The proximal end of the brainstem is the widest, and the distal end is the narrowest. It is divided into three parts which are the midbrain (mesencephalon), pons (metencephalon), and medulla oblongata (myelencephalon). Some of the brainstem structures are involved in controlling complex functions by coordinating with neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) and structures in other sections of the brain and throughout the body.
Part of brainstem
Midbrain: Control the vision, eye movement, motor control, sleep and wake cycles, alertness, and body temperature.
Pons: Involves in motor control and sensory analysis. It contains tracts that carry signals from the cerebrum to the medulla and to the cerebellum and carry sensory signals to the thalamus.
Medulla oblongata: Maintaining vital body functions such as breathing and heart rate. The medulla contains the cardiac, respiratory, vomiting, and vasomotor centers regulating heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure.
Cranial nerves in the human brain
Unlike spinal nerves which arise from portions of the spinal cord, cranial nerves emerge directly from the brain. There are generally twelve pairs of cranial nerves in humans. The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain and consists of right and left hemispheres that produce the first and second pairings of cranial nerves but the brainstem produces the remaining ten pairs of cranial nerves. The cerebrum is situated just above the brain. These two pairs of cranial nerves are:
- Olfactory nerves: Control the sense of smell
- Optic nerves: Control the sight
The functions of 10 pairs of cranial nerves of the brainstem are:
- Oculomotor nerve: Blink your eyes.
- Trochlear nerve: Moves eyes up and down or back and forth.
- Trigeminal nerve: Sensations in your face and cheeks
- Abducens nerve: Control your eyes.
- Facial nerve: Create facial expressions and the ability to taste.
- Auditory/vestibular nerve: Control hearing and body balance.
- Glossopharyngeal nerve: Involves in taste and swallowing.
- Vagus nerve: Helps in digestion and control heart rate.
- Accessory nerve: To move shoulder and neck muscle.
- Hypoglossal nerve: To move the tongue.
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