Medically reviewed by Healthline Medical Team on March 5, 2015

The pons is a portion of the brain stem, located above the medulla oblongata and below the midbrain. Although it is small, at approximately 2.5 centimeters long, it serves several important functions. It is a bridge between various parts of the nervous system, including the cerebellum and cerebrum, which are both parts of the brain.

There are many important nerves that originate in the pons. The trigeminal nerve is responsible for feeling in the face. I also controls the muscles that are responsible for biting, chewing, and swallowing. The abducens nerve allows the eyes to look from side to side. The facial nerve controls facial expressions, and the vestibulocochlear nerve allows sound to move from the ear to the brain. All of these nerves start within the pons.

As part of the brain stem, the pons also impacts several automatic functions necessary for life. A section of the lower pons stimulates and controls the intensity of breathing, and a section of the upper pons decreases the depth and frequency of breaths. The pons has also been associated with the control of sleep cycles.

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