Your brain consists of four main regions that differ in size, position, and function.
The oldest of the four regions is the brain stem. Located at the very bottom of the brain, it’s positioned above the spinal cord and connects the spinal cord with the brain. Along with other brain regions, the brain stem plays an integral part in many vital processes including breathing, digestion, and movement.
In this article, we’ll take a look at proper brain stem function and explain how this region of the brain helps your whole body function well.
Why Is The Brain Stem Important?
Many experts believe that the brain stem is the most important part of the brain.
While you can survive a cerebrum injury and even live a full life without a cerebellum, any damage to the brain stem may be fatal. That’s because the brain stem connects your brain to all other parts of your body. Without a brain stem, that connection would be lost and your body couldn’t function.
The brain stem is in charge of many vital processes that are essential to sustain life. It controls breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. Furthermore, it controls almost all other physiological process and involuntary activities without which you wouldn’t be able to survive.
What Is The Brain Stem Used For?
Your brain uses the brain stem to perform many of its essential functions.
So, what does the brain stem do exactly?
In addition to serving as a bridge between the brain and the spinal cord and relaying information to all other parts of the brain, the main function of the brain stem is to regulate breathing and digestion.
The brain stem is also in charge of many other autonomic functions.
As the name suggests, all these functions are controlled by the autonomic nervous system. They mostly include physiological functions like urination, heart rate, and arousal. Furthermore, they also include reflex actions like swallowing, vomiting, coughing, and sneezing.
There are numerous other processes that the brain stem is responsible for.
For one, it helps coordinate muscle movements (along with the cerebellum), gather and interpret sensory information, and keep your mood under control. The brain stem also regulates sleep, supports facial and eye movement, and even plays a part in hearing.
What Are Three Functions Of The Brain Stem?
As you can see, the brain stem has a wide range of functions that help your body operate. They can all be grouped into the following three roles:
How Does The Brain Stem Work?
If you look closely at the structure of the brain, you’ll notice that the brain stem looks much like an actual stem, while the cerebrum looks like a flower growing from it. Underneath them is the spinal cord, which can be observed as the root.
Starting at the bottom, the medulla oblongata “grows” directly from the spinal cord and controls a wide range of involuntary processes like breathing, circulation, and digestion.
Moving up, there is the pons, which serves as a bridge between the spinal cord and the cerebrum.
Finally, there is the midbrain, which gathers sensory information and controls certain motor functions.
When you cut the stem of a flower, the flower attached to it dies. The same is true of the brain stem. If your brain stem gets damaged, neither your brain nor your body will be able to function properly.
The Final Word
It’s not about mental intelligence, it’s about mental fitness.
—Jim Kwik, Author of Mindvalley’s Superbrain Program
Like any other muscle in your body, your brain – including the brain stem – grows and develops with regular exercise. This includes both actual physical exercise and brain workouts. Together, they stimulate the generation of new neurons and help keep your brain young and active.
How do you keep your brain young and sharp? Let us know in the comments below!