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What Are the Different Parts of the Hindbrain?

By H. Lo
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There are three different parts of the hindbrain: the pons, medulla and cerebellum. This region itself is one of three main divisions of the brain, the other two being the forebrain and the midbrain. Also known as the rhombencephalon, it is seen as the oldest of the divisions, and it is located between the rest of the brain and the spinal cord.

The brain is a complex organ comprised of many parts that are responsible for specific functions of the body, and like the rest of the brain, the three different parts of the hindbrain are each responsible for specific functions. As a whole, though, the region is the part of the brain that coordinates such functions as sleep patterns, movement and respiration.

Pons is a term that means “bridge,” and this name is an appropriate one since the pons acts as a bridge that allows for the transfer of information between other parts of the brain and the cerebellum. In relaying information to the cerebellum, this part, also known as pons varolli or metencephalon, assists in the control of eye and body movements. Other functions that the area is responsible for include the coordination of sleep patterns and arousal. Although a part of the hindbrain, the pons is also technically a part of the brain stem as well.

The medulla is called the medulla oblongata, which translates into “oblong marrow.” In addition, it is also known as the myelencephalon. This part of the brain is located between the pons and spinal cord, and like the pons, it is also technically a part of the brain stem. The medulla has sensory tracts that enable communication between the brain and the body. It controls involuntary and unconscious functions, like blood circulation and digestion as well as heartbeat and respiration.

The cerebellum sits at the back of the brain and above the brainstem; it is divided laterally into two hemispheres. The three main functions of the cerebellum are maintaining equilibrium, regulating muscle tone, and coordinating voluntary movement. In comparison to other parts of the brain, the cerebellum is fairly well-protected, but it can still suffer trauma. Knowing the functions of the area, it is understandable that damage to the cerebellum can result in slow and uncoordinated movements such as slurred speech, staggering and the tendency to fall. The term “cerebellum” means “little brain.”

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