Medulla oblongata

The medulla oblongata is located in the brain stem, anterior to (in front of) the cerebellum. This is a cone-shaped, neuronal (nerve cell) mass in the hindbrain, which controls a number of autonomic (involuntary) functions.

This section of the brain helps transfer messages to the spinal cord and the thalamus, which is in the brain, from the body. The main function of the thalamus is to process information to and from the spinal cord and the cerebellum.  

The medulla oblongata helps regulate breathing, heart and blood vessel function, digestion, sneezing, and swallowing. This part of the brain is a center for respiration and circulation. Sensory and motor neurons (nerve cells) from the forebrain and midbrain travel through the medulla.

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, also called white matter and gray matter, respectively.

Written and medically reviewed by the Healthline Editorial Team
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In Depth: Medulla oblongata

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