Monday, June 29, 2009

Medulla Oblongata

The medulla oblongata is the lower portion of the brainstem. Lying below the pons and and anterior to the cerebellum, the medulla oblongata looks like a swelling at the top of the spinal cord. It controls autonomic functions, such as breathing and blood pressure, and relays nerve signals between the cerebral cortex and spinal cord. The cardiac center is located in the medulla oblongata and is responsible for controlling the heart rate.

The anterior portion of the medulla oblongata is called the pyramid and lies between the anterior median fissure and the antero-lateral sulcus. The medulla controls the reflex actions of the pharynx, larynx, and tongue, which are related to deglutition, mastication, and speech, as well as the visceral reflexes of coughing, sneezing, sucking, vomiting, and salivating, and other secretory functions.