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Human Spinal Cord-Medulla Junction, 100X
The medulla oblongata often just referred to as the medulla, is the lower half of the brainstem continuous with the spinal cord. Its upper part is continuous with the pons. The medulla contains the cardiac, respiratory, vomiting and vasomotor centres dealing with heart rate, breathing and blood pressure. In the medial part of the medulla is the anterior median fissure. Moving laterally on each side are the medullary pyramids. The pyramids contain the fibers of the corticospinal tract (also called the pyramidal tract), or the upper motor neuronal axons as they head inferiorly to synapse on lower motor neuronal cell bodies within the anterior grey column of the spinal cord. The anterolateral sulcus is lateral to the pyramids. Emerging from the anterolateral sulci are the CN XII (hypoglossal nerve) rootlets. Lateral to these rootlets and the anterolateral sulci are the olives. The olives are swellings in the medulla containing underlying inferior nucleary nuclei (containing various nuclei and afferent fibers). Lateral (and dorsal) to the olives are the rootlets for CN IX (glossopharyngeal), CN X (vagus) and CN XI (accessory nerve). The pyramids end at the pontine medulla junction, noted most obviously by the large basal pons. From this junction, CN VI (abducens nerve), CN VII (facial nerve) and CN VIII (vestibulocochlear nerve) emerge. At the level of the midpons, CN V (the trigeminal nerve) emerges. Cranial nerve III (the occulomotor nerve) emerges ventrally from the midbrain, while the CN IV (the trochlear nerve) emerges out from the dorsal aspect of midbrain. Between the two pyramids can be seen a decussation of fibres which marks the transition from the medulla to the spinal cord. The medulla is above the decussation and the spinal cord below.