Thursday, 4 October 2012

Injury to the Medulla Oblongata

The Medulla Oblongata lies right at the bottom of the brainstem. Amongst it's functions are the control respiration, heart rate, swallowing, vomiting, blood pressure and coughing. It also acts as a relay station for nerve fibres which are descending from the cortex, which cross over at the level of the medulla. This ensures that the right cortical hemisphere controls the left hand limbs of the body and vice versa.

Because of the functions which are the responsibility of the medulla, injury to this part of the brain can prove to be fatal. Because several cranial nerves arise at the level of the medulla, injury can cause many sensory complications. For instance, injury here can cause numbness and paralysis of the palate and throat, difficulty swallowing, leading to drooling and disturbances of taste. It can also cause 'acid reflux,' gagging and inability to rotate the head. There are obvious implications amongst these problems for the development of language and communication.

Despite the seriousness of injuries to this part of the brain, I do occasionally see children who are displaying obvious signs of the involvement of the medulla in their injuries. They include children with both cerebral palsy and autism.

Can an Injury to the Medulla be successfully treated?

The brain is highly plastic and any part of our neurological structure is capable of making new connections if we can create the right environment for it to do so. What is the 'right environment?' Well that depends upon to particular pattern of injury experienced by the individual, but an environment which comprises the appropriate level of stimulation can improve the functioning of all areas of the brain. This is what a Snowdrop programme is tailored to acheive. Visit our website by clicking on this link to find out more.