The Pons serves a specific function in the brain, it sorts and relays messages between different sections of the brain. Specifically, the Pons relays messages between the cortex in the brain and the cerebellum.
Our brain is absolutely incredible and is what ultimately makes humans human. All the parts of the brain are extremely important, but the Pons stands out just a little more than some of the other parts. Check out this guide to learn all about the Pons.
The chief function of the body is to carry the brain around. – Thomas A. Edison
Parts Of The Brain
The brain is comprised of 3 major sections; the forebrain, the midbrain, and the hindbrain. The forebrain is comprised of: the thalamus, the cerebrum, and hypothalamus. The midbrain houses the tegmentum and the tectum. Finally, the hindbrain consists of the cerebellum, medulla, and the pons (these are also referred to as the brainstem). There are also 4 lobes: the occipital lobe, temporal lobe, frontal lobe, and finally the parietal lobe. Let’s cover what each portion of the brain does:
- Temporal lobe: this lobe is associated with hearing, speech, memory, and it also has a part of emotions
- Occipital lobe: this lobe is responsible for vision
- Frontal lobe: involved with emotion, reasoning, movement, judgment, and planning
- Parietal lobe: involved with movement, recognition, sense of touch, language, and even temperature
- Thalamus: the thalamus receives sensory information that it then sends to the cerebral cortex. Think of it as a relay station
- Cerebrum: comprised of different parts, is responsible for learning, memory, language, sensory processing, smell, and movement
- Hypothalamus: this controls body temperature, hunger, thirst, emotion, and sleep
- Tegmentum: involved in motor function and controls movement
- Tectum: the tectum is involved in auditory and visual functions
- Cerebellum: is responsible for movement and coordination
- Medulla oblongata: besides being responsible for why alligators are so cranky, the medulla oblongata controls breathing, digestion, sneezing, swallowing, and heart function
Every single part of the brain is important, and as you can see they all work together to ensure our survival. The Pons is yet another extremely important part of the brain. Let’s go over it.
The Brain’s Pons
Just like the thalamus is a relay station, well, so is the Pons. The Pons is one of the most interesting parts of the brain (to me at least) because it serves multiple purposes. (1) It serves as a relay station for the cerebellum and the cerebrum, (2) it is an origin point for different nerves, and (3) it has a massive role in involuntary functions. Let’s go over those roles:
Role 1: Relay Station
The location of the Pons makes it the perfect relay station between the medulla oblongata and the thalamus. The Pons is situated on the uppermost part of the brainstem, meaning it is part of what connects the brainstem to the brain. Because of its position, it is part of what relays messages from the cortex to the cerebellum (which is responsible for movement). While there are multiple reasons that humans could not survive without the Pons, one of the major reasons why we wouldn’t live is because without the Pons no messages and relays would be transmitted to other parts of our brain.
Role 2: Nerve Origin Point
The Pons also serves as a point of origin for multiple different nerves. Those nerves are the trigeminal nerve, the abducens nerve, the facial nerve, and the vestibulocochlear nerve. Let’s go over what each of those nerves are and what they do.
- Trigeminal nerve (CN V): This nerve is responsible for motor functions and sensation in the face
- Motor functions include chewing
- This is the largest cranial nerve and branches off to 3 other nerves
- The Ophthalmic nerve, the Mandibular nerve, and the Maxillary nerve
- Abducens nerve (CN VI): This nerve is actually responsible for looking outward
- Originates at the junction of the medulla and the Pons
- Think of this as the nerve being responsible for giving the side eye
- Facial nerve (CN VII): One of the most important nerves in the face, this nerve is responsible for facial expression, taste, and controls the tongue
- This controls all muscles involved in facial expression
- Vestibulocochlear nerve (CN VIII): This is yet another important nerve because it deals with sound and equilibrium
- It transmits sound from the ear
- Also deals with balance from the inner ear
- Consists of the cochlear nerve and the vestibular nerve
As you can see these are all very important nerves that control just about everything to do with our face. If the Pons is damaged at all then there are some serious effects that it can have on multiple different parts of your face, possibly rendering someone immobile.
Role 3: Involuntary Functions
Finally, the Pons controls involuntary bodily functions. The Pons controls intensity and frequency of breathing and also controls our sleep and consciousness cycle. Many researchers believe that the Pons plays a major role in REM sleep where dreams occur. By studying and doing experiments scientists believe that dreaming actually originates from the Pons, so next time you have a bad or weird dream blame your Pons for acting up.
Can We Live Without The Pons?
While humans can live without a gallbladder, lung, and even a kidney, there are certain organs and parts of our bodies that we cannot live without. The Pons is one of those parts that we cannot live without. If you were to remove anything above the brainstem your body could theoretically survive, but if anything below the brainstem is gone you would not be able to survive.
The brainstem is what “houses” all of our primary functions, such as breathing, which the Pons is responsible for. Because of the part that the Pons plays in hearing, eating, facial expression, and eye movement, the Pons is NOT something you could live without. It relays messages throughout the brain and controls too many important vital functions we as human beings need.
You may have heard stories about people who have had traumatic brain injuries (like railroad ties through their head) and survived, well it is because their brainstem wasn’t touched. If those injuries involved anything to do with the brainstem they would die pretty quickly since that stem is so important.