The brain stem plays an important role as a control center for various body functions such as:

  • Controls eye movement.
  • Processes visual, audible, and sensory information including touch, temperature, and painful stimuli.
  • Controls facial movements.
  • Controls heart and lung function, including heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing.
  • Controls swallowing, vomiting, coughing, and sneezing.

About Brainstem Anatomy

The brain and brainstem inside the head are protected by several protective layers. The outer part is protected by hair and scalp, then below is the skull bone.

While under the skull are the meninges or membranes of the brain and spinal cord. Between the lining of the brain and brain tissue, there is cerebrospinal fluid, also known as cerebrospinal fluid.

The brain stem consists of several parts, namely:

Midbrain ( midbrain )

As the name implies, this part of the brain stem is located in the middle of the brain. The midbrain plays a role in controlling vision and hearing. Not only that, the midbrain also regulates awareness and controls body movements.


The pons is located between the midbrain and the medulla oblongata. In this part of the brain stem, there are 4 cranial nerves that play a role in controlling facial expressions and maintaining balance and body coordinationThe pons also functions in regulating breathing.

Medulla oblongata

The medulla oblongata is located below the pons and plays a role in controlling the functions of several body systems, such as breathing, digestion, heart rate, and swallowing. This part of the brain is also the link between the pons and the spinal cord.

Damage to the Brainstem

Although it has been covered by many protective layers, the brain can be damaged, so that its function is disrupted. The following are some conditions or diseases that can cause damage to the brainstem:

Brain stem stroke

A brainstem stroke occurs when the blood supply in the blood vessels to the brainstem is cut off. This condition is characterized by impaired vision and hearing, as well as difficulty speaking and swallowing. In addition, sufferers can also experience numbness and difficulty moving one side of the body.

There are two types of brain stem stroke, namely ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke. Ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke and is caused by a blockage in the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain.

While a hemorrhagic stroke is a stroke that occurs due to the rupture of a blood vessel in the brain. This can cause swelling of brain tissue.

Brain stem strokes can be caused by certain diseases or medical conditions, such as hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, blood disorders, cancer, and autoimmune diseases.

Brain stem death

Brainstem death occurs when the brainstem no longer functions. This condition causes the sufferer to lose consciousness and unable to breathe. Because they cannot breathe spontaneously, people who have brainstem death usually require assisted breathing through the installation of a ventilator.

Ventilators can indeed help people who have brainstem death to breathe. However, other brain abilities such as speaking, eating, moving, and thinking, have been lost. In the case of brain stem death, the possibility of overall brain death is very high.

Brain stem death can be caused by several things, namely heart attack, stroke, brain herniation, severe head injury, brain hemorrhage, brain infection, such as meningitis, brain tumor, drug overdose, poisoning, and hypothermia.

Vegetative status Status

Brain stem death is often equated with a vegetative state, even though these two conditions are not the same.

People who experience brain stem death generally have no brain function at all. While people who are in a state of vegetative status can still show responses, such as blinking or moving their fingers, they are not responsive to their surroundings.

In addition, a person experiencing a vegetative state may still be able to breathe without the aid of a machine. In this condition, the doctor needs to explain to the patient’s family about his condition clearly.

This is important so that the patient’s family can decide whether the patient will still be put on a ventilator or not.

To reduce the risk of brain stem disorders, you need to regularly check your brain health conditions with your doctor and live a healthy lifestyle by not smoking, limiting alcoholic beverages, exercising regularly, and using personal protective equipment, such as helmets, when working in the field or riding a motorcycle.