The structure located at the base of the brain , which puts the brain in direct communication with the spinal cord is called the brain stem . Many important nerve structures are enclosed inside ; for this reason, his injuries, even if minimal, can have very serious consequences. It can be the target of trauma, tumors, strokes , infections and demyelination and many experts consider that the complete loss of its functionality is equivalent to brain death .
What is the brain stem?
The structure that connects the brain to the spinal cord, that is, the brain stem, can be compared to a station that sends messages that leave and arrive at the brain. The brain stem is divided into three parts: the midbrain , the bridge and the medulla oblongata . Together, these three parts allow you to control your respiratory, swallowing and vasomotor functions. These are vital functions of fundamental importance. Each of the nerve pathways that depart from or arrive at or pass through the brain cross into the brain stem . From here, moreover, 10 of the 12 pairs of cranial nerves originate , except the nerve connected to the smell and optic nerve . The remaining nerves allow motility and sensory abilities to the structures of the skull, and also involve the pharynx , larynx , tongue, facial muscles. These nerve pathways also participate in the senses of balance, taste and smell . They also house fundamental nuclei for autonomous sympathetic and parasympathetic functions.
What is the brain stem for?
The brain stem is responsible for attention, alertness, excitement, breathing, heart rate, blood pressure and their control. Thanks to the ability to channel data and signals shared by the peripheral nerves and the spinal cord in the brain, this structure also regulates other involuntary functions such as digestion, salivation, sweating, dilation or narrowing of the pupils and urination.
The regulation of the autonomous vital functions takes place in the lower part of the brain stem, while the regulation of the senses, such as vision and hearing , vigilance, consciousness and sleep is delegated to the upper area of the brain stem. Specifically, the midbrain regulates the movement of the eyes , the bridge coordinates the movements of the eyes and face and controls the sensations captured by the face, hearing and balance, and the medulla oblongata regulates breathing, blood pressure, heart rhythm and swallowing.