With every beat, your heart pumps the oxygen-rich blood all over your body. As your blood flows, it puts a certain pressure on the walls of your blood vessels, which is blood pressure. Your brain is the part that regulates your blood pressure, just like any other bodily body functions.
What is the medulla oblongata?
The job of regulating blood pressure is assigned to an area called the medulla oblongata. The medulla oblongata is located below the pons, right in the lower brainstem. This is evolutionarily the most basic part of the brain. The structure of humans’ medulla oblongata is almost identical to that of other primitive life forms (reptiles, for example). It links to the spinal cord. All the information that goes to and from the brain has to go through the medulla oblongata. The medulla oblongata is responsible for the involuntary functions of the body, such as heart beats and blood pressure.
How does the medulla oblongata control the blood pressure?
The medulla oblongata uses numerous receptors to regulate blood pressure. These receptors’ responsibility is to keep track of the changes in your blood pressure in the circulatory system. They will record all the widening or narrowing of the artery walls. The information is stored as electrochemical signals, then sent back to the medulla oblongata. Your organs need a specific amount of blood flowing to function properly. So, the medulla oblongata will use the information it receives to increase or decrease the blood pressure accordingly. It uses the sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous system. In addition to stimulating heart rate, the medulla oblongata is also able to control the changes of the blood vessels, either expanding or contracting to manage the blood flow. By managing those changes, the medulla oblongata regulates the blood pressure in your body.
Outside factors that affect your blood pressure
Outside factors can affect your blood pressure as well. When you are emotional, your body releases excessive adrenaline to your blood. This consequently stimulates your heart rate and your blood flow. The result would be an increasing blood pressure. In this case, the medulla oblongata is unable to resist the increased pressure. Therefore, doctors usually recommend people with hypertension to avoid sensitive situations.
Based on the way the brain works to control blood pressure, clinic trials have tried to figure out a device that can help the medulla oblongata work better. Moreover, electronic implants used in stroke patients and those who suffer from diseases related to high blood pressure have shown satisfying results.
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Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017
Autonomic Innervation of the Heart and Vasculature. http://www.cvphysiology.com/Blood%20Pressure/BP008.htm. Assessed October 9, 2016.
Brainstem. http://www.strokeeducation.info/brain/brainstem/. Assessed October 9, 2016.