The medulla oblongata controls aggression

Medulla oblongata

What is the function of the medulla oblongata?

In the medulla oblongata there are important regulatory centers for breathing and blood circulation as well as reflex centers for the swallowing and sucking reflex, the coughing, sneezing and gagging reflex and the vomiting center.


Breathing movements are controlled by groups of neurons in the medulla oblongata. The rhythmic breathing activity occurs through a complex interconnection of the breathing neurons in the medulla oblongata, which stimulate and inhibit each other. The respiratory center ensures a basic breathing rhythm that can be adapted to the respective needs by higher brain centers and the body periphery.

For example, you have to breathe harder during physical activity in order to meet the increased oxygen demand. Thus, information is passed to the respiratory center in the medulla oblongata via mechanoreceptors in the joints and muscles, which increases the respiratory drive.

Sympathetic and Parasympathetic

The sympathetic nervous system as part of the autonomic nervous system is controlled by a core area of ​​the medulla oblongata, which has a close relationship with the respiratory centers. The parasympathetic nervous system is also controlled by the nerve nuclei of the myelencephalon:

Peripheral nerves have a basic activity, the sympathetic tone. This is determined by pathways that come from the medulla oblongata and pull over the posterior cords into the spinal cord. If this control center of the sympathetic nervous system in the medulla oblongata is stimulated, the sympathetic nerves and the organs belonging to them are activated accordingly. This results in an increase in blood pressure, for example.

Conversely, an inhibition of this control center leads to a decrease in the activity in the sympathetic nerves, as a result of which, for example, blood pressure drops.

Digestion in the small intestine is regulated, among other things, by the muscle tone of the intestinal wall and nerve fibers in the intestinal wall. Fibers of the parasympathetic nervous system pull to excitatory and inhibitory ganglia. Which function - the exciting or the inhibiting - predominates is determined in the nerve nuclei of the medulla oblongata (and in the lower spinal cord).


The circulatory regulation during physical work has to adapt to the needs of the muscles. To do this, the heart has to pump faster. This regulation is also carried out by centers in the medulla oblongata. Inhibiting and stimulating impulses are passed on to the cerebral cortex via the posterior brain.

Chewing and swallowing

The centers that control chewing and swallowing and thus food intake are located in the medulla oblongata. These are superordinated to two centers, the eating center and the satiety center in nuclei of the hypothalamus. Chewing and the beginning of the swallowing process are controlled by cranial nerves that emerge from the medulla oblongata (trigeminal nerve, hypoglossal nerve and vagus nerve).

Acid-base balance

The medulla oblongata contains chemosensitive receptors that regulate the body's acid-base balance.


Descending pathways connecting the cerebrum to the spinal cord run through the myelencephalon and ascending pathways are switched here.

The nerve fibers for the epicritical sensitivity end in the dorsal nucleus gracilis and nucleus cuneatus - fine temperature and touch sensations, sense of movement and position, sense of strength and recognition of shape.

The olive pits of the medulla oblongata coordinate fine motor skills.