Located in the brainstem, anterior to the cerebellum, the medulla oblongata is a cone-shaped neuronal mass in the hindbrain, controlling a number of autonomic functions. This section of the brain helps transfer messages to the spinal cord and the thalamus in the brain from the body and controls breathing, heart function, blood vessel function, digestion, sneezing, and swallowing. Sensory and motor neurons from the forebrain and midbrain travel through the medulla. This portion of the brain controls autonomic functions, relay of nerve signals and body movement coordination. This part of the brain is a center for respiration and circulation. The medulla deals primarily with involuntary functions from breathing to vomiting. The major points for autonomic functions in the body are chemoreceptors for respiration, sympathetic and parasympathetic systems for cardiac activity, baroreceptors for the vasomotor center, and various reflex centers. The medulla oblongata receives its blood supply from several arteries, including the anterior spinal artery, posterior inferior cerebellar artery, and the vertebral artery's direct branches. The medulla contains both myelinated and unmyelinated nerve fibers, or white matter and gray matter respectively.
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In Depth: Medulla oblongata