What Is The Brain Stem And What Does It Do?

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The brain stem is the oldest, most primitive part of the human brain. This tube-shaped region forms a bridge between the brain and the spinal cord and connects the brain to all other parts of your body. About three inches long, the brain stem is a mass made entirely out of nervous tissue.

Despite its small size, the brain stem is one of the most important regions of the body. It’s responsible for many vital functions. Breathing, swallowing, and digestion – these are only a few of the essential functions that the brain stem is responsible for.

In this article, we will take a closer look at the structure, function, and importance of the brain stem.

What Are The Main Parts Of The Brain Stem?


The brain stem consists of three parts. Starting from the bottom (which is where the brain stem connects to the spinal cord) are the medulla oblongata, pons, and midbrain.

The medulla oblongata is similar in structure to the spinal cord and contains two types of nerve fibers – myelinated (made up of white matter) and unmyelinated (made up of gray matter). The latter also contain several cranial nerve nuclei that support functions related to movement and senses.

Moving up, there is the pons, which is considerably larger than the medulla oblongata. This part of the brain stem is home to many vital nerves. These include the abducens nerve (eye movement), the facial nerve (facial expressions), and the trigeminal nerve (feeling in the face).

Finally, at the very top of the brain stem, is the midbrain. This is a very complex part of the brain that contains numerous important structures, as well as a number of cranial nerves that support vision, facial and eye movement, as well as the movement of neck and shoulder muscles.

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What Is The Location And Function Of The Brain Stem?


The brain stem is located at the base of the brain, above the spinal cord and below the cerebrum. It is connected to the cerebellum through three pairs of nerve bundles known as cerebellar peduncles.

This region of the brain is important for its connective role. As already explained, it connects the brain to the spinal cord and thus also to all other parts of the body. In addition, the brain stem also serves as the connection between the cerebrum and the cerebellum, two of the four main regions of the brain.

What Is The Function Of The Brain Stem?

Together, the three brain stem parts have several other important functions.

First, they relay nerve signals between the spinal cord and the brain, as well as between different regions of the brain. The medulla helps coordinate movements, regulate mood, and control autonomic functions. It also controls the body’s cardiovascular function and respiratory processes.

The pons helps regulate breathing, sleep, and arousal. It also plays an important role in eye movement, facial expressions, chewing, and swallowing. The midbrain shares many of these functions and is also important for hearing.

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What Are Three Functions Of The Brain Stem?

All the individual roles of the brain stem can be summed up into three main functions. These include:

Serving as communication between the brain and the spinal cord
Controlling the cardiovascular and respiratory systems
Housing cranial nerve nuclei that are instrumental to movement and sensory functions

Can You Live Without A Brain Stem?


To make a long story short: no, you cannot live without a brain stem.

While there are some brain regions that you can live without (like the cerebellum), the brain stem isn’t one of them. That’s because the brain stem controls breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. In addition, it controls consciousness and autonomic functions which are required to sustain life.

The Final Word

We need to understand how our minds work so we can work our minds better.
—Jim Kwik, Author of Mindvalley’s Superbrain Program

Several studies have shown that physical activity, particularly leg exercises, can support the production of new neurons by stimulating the brain stem pathways. Working out regularly can boost your brain power, improve your memory, and protect your brain from age-related mental decline.


What do you do to boost your brain function? Let us know in the comments below!

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Mindvalley

Mindvalley is creating a global school that delivers transformational education for all ages. Powered by community. Fueled by fun.

We are dedicated to ensuring that humans live happier, healthier, and more fulfilled lives by plugging in the gaps that conventional education failed to teach us.

We do this by organising real-world events around the world and producing world-class quality programmes in several areas of transformation, including mind, body, and performance.

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