The brainstem is the lower part of the brain . It is shaped like a tube and is located above the back of the neck. Also known as the brain stem , it is one of the most important organs of the body because it connects the brain with the spinal cord , maintains vital control of organs such as the heart, lungs and coordinates important reflexes for survival in beings. humans and some animals. If the brainstem is severely injured, the individual may lose consciousness and their basic activities stop working., which could result in death. On the contrary, if another part of the brain is injured but the brainstem is in good condition, the person will remain alive.


What is the brainstem?

The brainstem or brainstem is a structure of the nervous system located within the skull . It is made up of the midbrain, the annular pons, and the medulla oblongata or brainstem. This organ is composed of gray and white matter , and it fulfills several vital functions for the human being, among which are respiration and heart rhythm . It is also known as the brain stem.

  • Brainstem characteristics
  • Parties
  • Function
  • Structure
  • Location
  • Brainstem nuclei
  • Brainstem bridge
  • Pathologies that can occur in the brain stem

Brainstem characteristics

Of the most representative characteristics of the brainstem, the following can be mentioned:

  • It is located inside the skull , at the base of the brain.
  • It is shaped like a tubular dough.
  • It is made up of the midbrain , the pons, and the medulla oblongata .
  • It is part of the nervous system.
  • It measures approximately more than 8 centimeters in length.
  • It is made up of white matter and gray matter.
  • It is the transmitter of information between the body and the brain .
  • It represents a vital organ for man and if it is damaged it can cause immediate death.
  • It intervenes in the maintenance of consciousness.
  • Regulates the sleep cycle.
  • Control hiccups, coughs, and sneezes.
  • It is related to the sensation of vomiting, the ability to swallow and sensitivity to pain.


The brainstem is formed – from the bottom up – by the medulla oblongata or brainstem, the annular pons or bridge of the brainstem, and the midbrain:

  • The medulla oblongata (or brainstem ) is located in the lowest segment of the brainstem, below the pons and above the spinal cord. It communicates information between the spinal cord and the brain , in addition to regulating cardiac, gastric and respiratory functions.
  • The annular pons is the middle segment of the brainstem, it is located over the medulla oblongata and above the midbrain. This allows the connection between the medulla oblongata and the spinal cord with the cerebellum and the two hemispheres of the brain.
  • The mesencephalon or midbrain is the top of the brainstem. This organ has a fundamental function linked to the movement of the eyes, the coordination and transmission of information between the brain, motor nerves and the spinal cord.


The brain stem has three main functions that are vital for the human being:

  • The transmission of information between the brain and the body . This function allows us to feel the sensation of pain, temperature, touch, as well as transmit the order of movement to the muscles and other organs of the body.
  • Functions that involve the cardiovascular, respiratory system, being conscious and alert states to an internal or external stimulus.
  • Control the reflex actions of the body and the motor innervation of the head.


The brain stem structure is made up of gray and white matter . The white matter carries within itself the gray matter in the form of nuclei.

The gray matter intervenes in functions related to the sensory pathways, the involuntary motor pathways, and processes such as waking and sleeping states , among others. It can be divided into three types:

  • The segmental centers.
  • The nuclei of the brainstem.
  • The substance or reticular formation.


The brainstem is located at the base of the brain, between the brain and the spinal cord.

Brainstem nuclei

The nuclei of the brainstem constitute the part of the gray matter and are located within the white matter of this organ . These can be divided into three different types: somatomotor nuclei, somatosensory nuclei, and visceromotor nuclei.

  • The somatomotores cores collected somatic information spinal cord and are linked with the movement processes . These present a dorsal column related to the ocular muscles and nerves; and a ventral column related to the trigeminal motor that controls chewing functions, the facial nerve, the ambiguous nerve, and the spinal nerve.
  • The somatosensory nuclei collect sensitive information from the body . These have in the dorsal column, the statoacoustic nuclei that coordinate the corporal balance and the perception of auditory stimuli; and the nucleus of the solitary fascicle related to the sense of taste. In the ventral column is the trigeminal nucleus that extends throughout the brainstem.
  • The visceromotor nuclei carry out activities related to the functioning of the eye . These are as follows:
    • The median nucleus of Perlia and the nuclei of Edinger related to the intrinsic motility of the eye.
    • The lacrimomuconasal nucleus that regulate tear secretion and mucosa in the nasal passages.
    • The salivary nuclei that regulate the submaxillary, sublingual and parotid glands.
    • The cardioneumonteric nucleus that contains the origin of the cardiac, respiratory and digestive fibers.
    • The vescerosensisitic nuclei that are part of the gray wing of the fourth ventricle

Brainstem bridge

The brainstem bridge (or pons) is located over the medulla oblongata and below the midbrain. Through this organ the brainstem and spinal cord are connected to the cerebellum and the two hemispheres of the brain .

Pathologies that can occur in the brain stem

The encephalic throne is a structure that contains most of the cranial nuclei and that fulfills very important functions for the survival of the body. If it is affected, it can produce certain pathologies that could affect our cardiorespiratory, sensory, and stomach systems, among others.

One of the pathologies that can occur in the brain stem is glioma . This disease manifests itself with tumors that form from benign (non-cancerous) or Malginate (cancerous) glial cells in brain stem tissues.

The symptoms of glioma are:

  • Headaches,
  • Hearing and visual problems,
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Walking and balance problems.

Other pathologies that can affect the brainstem are:

  • Lateral bulbar syndrome
  • Medial syndrome
  • Babinski-Nageotte syndrome

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