What does the Medulla Oblongata do?

The human body is composed of myriad body parts and systems that work independently and collaboratively to make us live and function optimally. Above all the organs and systems in the body, the nervous system which includes the mighty brain is considered the most vital areas of human anatomy and physiology.

The brain consists of many parts and those who are not medically inclined find it tedious to know the anatomy and physiology of the brain. One of the important parts of the brain is the medulla oblongata. In simpler terms, this part is also referred as the medulla and it is located at the bottom part of the brainstem, easily recognized by the small and bulging structure in this region. This part connects the brain and the spinal cord and contains myriad nerves for significant functions.

What does the medulla oblongata do? This structure plays complex functions like the autonomic or involuntary functions in the body such as breathing and blood pressure. Depression of the medulla will greatly affect our breathing pattern that is why immediate interventions like mechanical ventilators and application of other life-supporting devices must be given to prevent further decline to our respiration.

Aside from regulating breathing and blood pressure, the medulla is also tasked to regulate cardiac functions and this includes controlling the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. The medulla oblongata also controls bodily secretions and regulates important reflexes necessary for supporting life such as vomiting, coughing, sneezing and swallowing. When something is wrong with the medulla, the body will not function normally, often causing inability to accomplish motor functions without assistance from significant others.

Certain drugs are known to be medulla oblongata depressants such as opiates, illicit drugs and alcohol. Such substances must be avoided to prevent fatal conditions and impending death. The anesthetic drugs used for general anesthesia in major surgeries also targets the medulla oblongata that is why there is decline to our function and makes us unconscious during the course of surgery. There are even cases wherein anesthetics have caused fatalities. With this, patients and anesthesiologists must provide extreme caution when using such drugs.

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