Medulla oblongata


The medulla oblongata is a structure located in the lower part of the brain stem, in which there are motor and sensory nerve connections that are responsible for the maintenance and functioning of the organs in an automated way that are vital for human beings . This neurovegetative nucleus, together with the brain and cerebellum, are part of the brain and those in turn together with the spinal cord make up the central nervous system.


What is the medulla oblongata?

The medulla oblongata or medulla oblongata is a neurovegetative nucleus that connects the brain and the spinal cord. It is responsible for the functioning of the organs in an automated way and alien to consciousness . Its functions include the transmission of impulses from the spinal cord to the brain, cardiac, respiratory, gastrointestinal and vasoconstrictor activity. It is also known as the myelocephalus .

  • Medulla oblongata characteristics
  • Parties
  • Function
  • Structure
  • Location
  • Medulla oblongata nuclei
  • Diseases
  • What controls the medulla oblongata
  • Importance

Medulla oblongata characteristics

Among the most representative characteristics of the medulla oblongata we can mention the following:

  • It is shaped like a truncated cone.
  • It measures about three centimeters in height, 1.5 in diameter, and 1.3 in thickness.
  • It weighs 6 to 7 grams.
  • It is one of the most internal parts of the brain .
  • It is located between the spinal cord and the brain .
  • It controls cardiac, respiratory, gastrointestinal and vasoconstrictor functions .


The medulla oblongata can be divided into three parts for study:

  • Pyramids: They are named for their shape. In these are the bundles of nerve fibers that connect the cortex with the bulb and the spine. The pyramids connect the brain with the rest of the body’s muscles, carrying motor information.
  • Lemnisci: They are bundles of nerve fibers that transmit sensory information between the brain and the spinal cord.
  • Olive complex: This structure is located in the brain stem, connecting the brain with the rest of the body. It is linked to motor skills and vision.


Among the most important functions of the medulla oblongata, the following can be mentioned:

  • The transmission of impulses from the spinal cord to the brain and vice versa.
  • Control your heart rate and blood pressure .
  • Regulation and control of visceral functions .
  • Regulation of the respiratory system .
  • The regulation of the secretion of digestive juices .
  • Participation in swallowing processes .
  • Control of vasoconstrictor functions .
  • Control of coughing, vomiting, sneezing, and swallowing .


The structure of the medulla oblongata can be divided from its external part into three faces , the anterior, the lateral and the posterior.

  • The anterior face: This part is characterized by the pyramidal decussation.
  • The lateral faces: In these parts the sensory decussation takes place.
  • The back face: In this part are the bulbar olives.

The structure of the medulla oblongata is internally configured in four levels . These are:

  • Level 1, of the decussation of the pyramids: At this level the pyramids change sides, passing those from the right to the left and vice versa. In this area, motor pathways are used
  • Level 2, of the decussation of the lemnisci: At this level the lemnisci change sides, passing from the right. Sensory information pathways are used in this area
  • Level 3, of the bulbar olives: At this level, the bulbar olives transmit the information related to the control of motor skills and vision.
  • Level 4, is located just below the brainstem bridge.


The medulla oblongata is located in the lower part of the brainstem and connects the brainstem with the spinal cord.

Medulla oblongata nuclei

In the medulla oblongata we can find nuclei of gray matter whose nerve functions are vital for the human body. These are:

  • Nuclei of the olive (upper and lower): linked to the functions of vision and hearing.
  • Cochlear nuclei: linked to hearing functions
    • Geniculate nucleus.
  • Gracilis and cuneiform nuclei: linked to the sense of touch and the conscious state.
  • Trigeminal sensory nucleus: linked to sensitivity in the face.
  • Ambiguous nucleus: related to food and digestion.
  • Nucleus of the solitary tract: linked to taste, the sensitivity of the viscera and cardiorespiratory function.
  • Dorsal nucleus of the vagus: linked to the peripheral nervous system , digestion and the emission of gastric fluids.
  • Trigeminal nucleus: linked to the transmission of information about pain, temperature and the sense of touch.


In relation to the functions carried out in the medulla oblongata, alterations in this part of the brain can generate some symptoms and diseases such as the ones presented below:

  • Multisystemic atrophy: this pathology produces atrophy in the cerebellum .
  • Lateral sclerosis: this disease damages the corticospinal fibers.
  • Multiple sclerosis: reduces mobility in the individual and damages various regions of the brain and the medulla oblongata.
  • Behcet’s disease: this pathology is rare and causes ulcers and nodular lesions.
  • Medulla oblongata cancer: this pathology causes vision problems, weakness and lethargy.

What controls the medulla oblongata

The medulla oblongata is a neurovegetative nucleus that is in charge of controlling the maintenance and functioning of the organs in an automated way, maintaining vital signs .


The medulla oblongata represents an organ of great importance for human life. Loss or destruction of the medulla oblongata causes death instantly .

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