Functions of the reticular formation in the brain stem

What are the functions of the reticular formation in the brain stem? 

The reticular formation is composed of a network of diffuse aggregations of neurons distributed throughout the central parts of the medulla, pons, and midbrain.

It fills the spaces between cranial nerve nuclei and olivary bodies and intermixes between ascending and descending fiber tracts.

Its neurons receive afferent information from the spinal cord, cranial nerve nuclei, cerebellum, and cerebrum and send efferent impulses to the same structures.

Their widespread connections give them extensive influence over many neuronal activities. The main functions of the reticular formation are:

  • Activation of the brain for behavioral arousal and different levels of awareness
  • Modulation of segmental stretch reflexes and muscle tone for control of motor function
  • Coordination of autonomic functions, such as control of breathing and cardiovascular activities
  • Modulation of the perception of pain

Sources

  • Baloh RW: Vestibular neuritis. New Eng J Med 348:1027-1032, 2003. 
  • Furman JM, Cass SP: Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. New Eng J Med 341:1590-1596, 1999. 
  • Epley JM: The canalith repositioning procedure for treatment of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 107:399-406, 1992. 
  • Steriade M: Arousal: Revisiting the reticular activating system. Science 272:225-227, 1996.
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