Glossary

chronic vegetative state Condition of a person with bilateral forebrain and/or upper brain stem dysfunction that eliminates thinking, purposive behavior, and self-consciousness but leaves intact the basic homeostatic mechanisms necessary for life.

cranial nerves The 12 sensory and/or motor nerves that connect the brain, especially the brain stem, with the peripheral sensory and motor organs in the region of the face and head.

nucleus of the tractus solitarius Secondary sensory nucleus in the dorsomedial medulla oblongata that receives inputs from taste, respiratory, cardiovascular, visceral, and gastrointestinal primary afferents traveling in cranial nerves VII, IX, and X.

parasympathetic motoneurons in the brain stem Preganglionic motoneurons, with axons leaving the brain in cranial nerves III, VII, IX, and X, that innervate cranial, cervical, thoracic, and abdominal postganglionic neurons responsible for controlling visceral functions such as pupillary diameter, salivation, heart rate, bronchosecretion, and gut motility.

premotor neurons Forebrain or brain stem neurons with axonal projections synapsing on somatic, parasympathetic, or sympathetic motoneurons.

presympathetic motoneurons in the brain stem Neurons with axons that descend to the spinal cord and synapse on sympathetic preganglionic neurons in the thoracic and upper lumbar spinal cord.

primary sensory neurons Sensory (afferent) neurons, with cell bodies in the dorsal root ganglia or in peripheral sensory ganglia located in the upper neck or facial regions, that convey information from the periphery to the spinal cord or the brain.

reticular formation Regions of the brain stem containing neuronal cell bodies (motoneurons, premotor neurons, and interneurons) interspersed between bundles of axons; the cell bodies are not gathered into obvious nuclei and the appearance is net-like. The term is also used to signify a brain stem system for alteration of the level of arousal and consciousness.

secondary sensory neurons Brain and spinal cord neurons receiving direct synaptic inputs from the central processes of the primary sensory neurons.

somatic motoneurons Brain stem and spinal motoneurons with a peripherally directed axon that innervates striated muscle; subdivided into general somatic efferent and special visceral efferent.

The brain stem is the portion of the central nervous system rostral to the spinal cord and caudal to the cerebral hemispheres. This article defines the different collections of nerve cells and axonal pathways that constitute the brain stem and summarizes the manner in which brain stem neuronal circuitry mediates the basic bodily homeostatic "housekeeping" functions necessary for our daily lives.

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