The brain stem consists of the medulla, pons, and mes-encephalon. In one sense, it is an extension of the spinal cord upward into the cranial cavity, because it contains motor and sensory nuclei that perform motor and sensory functions for the face and head regions in the same way that the spinal cord performs these functions from the neck down. But in another sense, the brain stem is its own master because it provides many special control functions, such as the following:
1. Control of respiration
2. Control of the cardiovascular system
3. Partial control of gastrointestinal function
4. Control of many stereotyped movements of the body
5. Control of equilibrium
Finally, the brain stem serves as a way station for "command signals" from higher neural centers. In the following sections, we discuss the role of the brain stem in controlling whole-body movement and equilibrium. Especially important for these purposes are the brain stem's reticular nuclei and vestibular nuclei.
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This ebook provides an introductory explanation of the workings of the human body, with an effort to draw connections between the body systems and explain their interdependencies. A framework for the book is homeostasis and how the body maintains balance within each system. This is intended as a first introduction to physiology for a college-level course.