Brain stem one of the most vital regions for our body’s survival. It forms the connection between the
brain and the spinal cord, maintains vital control of the heart and lungs, and coordinates many important reflexes. It lies between the deep structures of the cerebral hemispheres and the cervical spinal cord. The brainstem is divided into three sections in humans: the midbrain(mesencephalon), the pons (metencephalon), and the medulla oblongata(myelencephalon).
The exterior of the brain stem consists of white matter that conducts nerve signals within the it and to the spinal cord and other regions of the brain. Masses of gray matter, known as nuclei, perform the processing role of the brain stem. The reticular formation, a network of mixed gray and white matter, extends throughout the interior of the brain stem and plays an important role in stimulation of the cerebrum and the muscles of the body.
Main functions of brain stem:
1) The first is its role in conduction. All information relayed from the body to the cerebrum and cerebellum– and vice versa– must traverse the brain stem. The ascending pathways coming from the body to the brain are the sensory pathways, and include the spinothalamic tract for pain and temperature sensation and the dorsal column, fasciculus gracilis, and cuneatus for touch, proprioception, and pressure sensation (both of the body).
2) It also gives rise to the cranial nerves .
3) It has integrative functions, including cardiovascular system control , respiratory control, pain sensitivity control, alertness, awareness, and consciousness. Any damage to the brain stem is usually serious and often life-threatening.