Brainstem: Wikis

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Brain: Brainstem
Gray719.png
Hind- and mid-brains; postero-lateral view.
Latin truncus encephali
Gray's subject #187
Part of Brain
Components Medulla, Pons, Midbrain
NeuroNames ancil-218
MeSH Brain+Stem
NeuroLex ID birnlex_1565

The brainstem (or brain stem) is the lower part of the brain, adjoining and structurally continuous with the spinal cord. The brain stem provides the main motor and sensory innervation to the face and neck via the cranial nerves. Though small, this is an extremely important part of the brain as the nerve connections of the motor and sensory systems from the main part of the brain to the rest of the body pass through the brain stem. This includes the corticospinal tract (motor), the posterior column-medial lemniscus pathway (fine touch, vibration sensation and proprioception) and the spinothalamic tract (pain, temperature, itch and crude touch). The brain stem also plays an important role in the regulation of cardiac and respiratory function. It also regulates the central nervous system, and is pivotal in maintaining consciousness and regulating the sleep cycle.

It is usually described as including the medulla oblongata (myelencephalon), pons (part of metencephalon), and midbrain (mesencephalon).[1][2] Less frequently, parts of the diencephalon are included.

Contents

Embryology

The adult human brain stem emerges from two of the three primary vesicles formed of the neural tube. The mesencephalon is the second of the three primary vesicles, and does not further differentiate into a secondary vesicle. This will become the midbrain. The third primary vesicle, the rhombencephalon, will further differentiate into two secondary vesicles, the metencephalon and the myelencephalon. The metencephalon will become the cerebellum and the pons. The myelencephalon will become the medulla.

Physiology

There are three main functions of the brain stem:

1. The first is its role in conduct functions. That is, all information related from the body to the cerebrum and cerebellum and vice versa, must traverse the brain stem. The ascending pathways coming from the body to the brain are the sensory pathways, and include the spinothalamic tract for pain and temperature sensation and the dorsal column, fasciculus gracilis, and cuneatus for touch, proprioception, and pressure sensation (both of the body). (The facial sensations have simiar pathways, and will travel in the spinothalamic tract and the medial lemniscus also). Descending tracts are upper motor neurons destined to synapse on lower motor neurons in the ventral horn and intermediate horn of the spinal cord. In addition, there are upper motor neurons that originate in the brain stem's vestibular, red, tectal, and reticular nuclei, which also descend and synapse in the spinal cord.

2. The cranial nerves 3-12 emerge from the brain stem.

3. The brain stem has integrative functions (it is involved in cardiovascular system control, respiratory control, pain sensitivity control, alertness, and consciousness). Thus, brain stem damage is a very serious and often life-threatening problem.

Physical signs of brain stem disease

Diseases of the brain stem can result to abnormalities in the function of cranial nerves which may lead to visual disturbances, pupil abnormalities, changes in sensation, muscle weakness, hearing problems, vertigo, swallowing and speech difficulty, voice change, and co-ordination problems. Localizing neurological lesions in the brain stem may be very precise, although it relies on a clear understanding on the functions of brain stem anatomical structures and how to test them.

See also

References

External links

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