Spinal Bulb, characteristics and functions

Spinal Bulb, characteristics and functions

The nervous system is an organization of structures and systems that functions as a whole whose parts are connected at different levels. Some of these parts are extremely crucial for the general functioning of living beings and one of them is the spinal bulb, a very important structure of the brain whose activity allows us to be able to perform many functions such as regulating our blood pressure and even breathing.


  • 1 What is the medulla oblongata?
  • 2 Location of the medulla oblongata
  • 3 Functions of the medulla oblongata
  • 4 Problems in the medulla oblongata and its consequences

What is the medulla oblongata?

The medulla is the most caudal structure of the brainstem. It is a rounded protuberance, composed of white matter and gray matter that functions as the main connector between the spinal cord and the central nervous system.

The medulla oblongata is divided into different zones. A medium fissure in the anterior area connects this structure with the spinal cord. On both sides of the bulb are the pyramids, the most important area in this structure, which connect the bulb with the spinal cord. Outward is the pre-groove groove. The medulla is also the center where the nerves on one side and another of the brain are located, that is, the meeting point between one hemisphere and another.

Location of the medulla oblongata

The spinal bulb, also known as the medulla oblongata, is located in a key area of ​​the nervous system: between the brain stem bridge at the top and the spinal cord in the lower zone. Previously it is placed in front of the cerebellum and its important location manages to connect the spinal cord and peripheral nervous system, with the central nervous system. That is, it is the point of connection between muscles and organs of the body with the brain. This is done by transferring the information that arrives from the peripheral nervous system to a structure called the thalamus, which selects the stimuli that will be subsequently transferred to the rest of the brain according to their importance.

Also connect the two cerebral hemispheres whose nerves are in this structure, so that an injury on one side of the bulb can cause the opposite hemisphere to present problems.

The spinal bulb receives oxygen through different arteries, such as the anterior spinal artery, the inferior posterior cerebellar artery, and direct branches of the vertebral artery. In addition, the medulla oblongata is formed by myelinated and demyelinated nerve fibers: that is, white matter and gray matter.

Functions of the medulla oblongata

The medulla oblongata is involved in different involuntary functions and due to its connecting role between the spinal cord and the brain, its importance is key to the survival of the human being, carrying out actions such as:

  • The control of autonomous functions
  • The coordination of involuntary body movements. These involuntary reflex movements can be swallowing food, sneezing or nausea, among many other reflex movements.
  • The control and coordination of voluntary movements such as head movement or important movements to speak
  • The respiratory control
  • Cardiovascular control: being responsible for reculating heart rate or blood pressure
  • Controls and regulates visceral functions and gastrointestinal functions
  • The sensory information transfer between the peripheral nervous system and the central nervous system. The peripheral nervous system is formed by the nerves and ganglia around the body that connect organs and muscles with the central nervous system. This connector is the medulla, which sends information from the rest of the body to the thalamus, which subsequently sends it to the rest of the brain.

Problems with the medulla oblongata and its consequences

Problems and injuries in this structure can cause different difficulties related to many sensitive systems and coordinators. These can result in problems in tasting, movement, breathing or even heart rate.

As we have explained above, the medulla is involved in many important physical processes, such as breathing and even the diameter of arteries and veins, sneezing or even swallowing. That is why damage to this structure can interfere with crucial functions, leading to problems such as:

  • Paralysis
  • Vertigo
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Trouble making movements like turning your head
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Loss of muscle coordination
  • Being a meeting point between the two hemispheres, damage to one side of the medulla can cause problems on the other side of the body.

Some of these deficits can be caused by the use of drugs such as opiates. These, in large quantities, can inhibit the functioning of this structure, with the consequent difficulty in breathing or maintaining heart rate, which in cases of severe overdose can be fatal. Because it is the key meeting point between the nerves of each hemisphere and the ascending and descending tracts of the nervous system, their damage can pose a danger to the normal functions of living beings.

Links of interest

Medulla Oblongata. //

What is the Medulla Oblongata? (2018). //

Medulla oblongata. //