Reticular formation: characteristics, functions and associated diseases

Much of the brain structure can be easily located and separated from the rest. However, there are others which, being more distributed in various parts of the brain, are more difficult to detect.

The reticular formation is one of these, Although the fact that it is more discreet does not mean that it is less important. In fact, we need it to live and be aware of what is happening to us.

Below, we will look at the characteristics of the reticular formation, its functions, and the problems that can appear if something interferes with its condition due to illness or injury.

What is reticular formation?

The reticular formation is a network of neurons located between the brainstem and the diencephalon., Specifically the thalamus. In other words, it is located in one of the lower parts of the brain and therefore plays a key role in everything that happens in the upper areas.

Since reticular formation is a network of neurons, its boundaries and limits are blurry and it is not at all easy to know where it starts and where it ends. For example, with the naked eye it is practically impossible to locate it, and in any case it is possible to see approximately the structures for which it is distributed.

The “starting point” of the reticular formation is considered to be a part of the brainstem called the annular protuberance, between the medulla oblongata and the midbrain, and from there it ascends to the opening of the thalamus. -Se growing, like a fan. This formation consists of a hundred groups of neurons scattered irregularly throughout the nervous tissue of these areas.

the functions

Reticular training plays a key role in regulating the level of consciousness that one has, A process in which the thalamus is also particularly involved. This means that his work has to do with the circadian rhythm and the onset and disappearance of sleep, among others.

On the other hand, another function of this neural network is the regulation of the state of excitation, or state of alert, a process parallel to that of the regulation of the conscious state.

As the reticular formation is at the entrance to the brain through its areas closest to the spinal cord, it also works by filtering information from the senses, selecting data and removing irrelevant parts, which do not reach not consciousness. Likewise, its relation to the processes of attention and consciousness makes it participate in the perception of physical pain and in the processes of habituation to repetitive stimuli.

Outraged, reticular formation influences involuntary and automatic movements, Like those used to maintain vital constants (heartbeat, for example). In this sense, it is one of the components of the nervous system without which we could not live.

its parts

The reticular formation can be divided into the following parts.

1. Central group of nuclei

A region of the reticular formation that is also divided into posterolateral nuclei and middle nuclei.

2. Lateral group of nuclei

Divided into the reticular nucleus of the pontic roof, lateral nucleus and paramedian.

3. Average group of nuclei

Also known as raft nuclei, located in the medial area of ​​the brainstem. It is divided into dark raft core and large raft core.

Diseases associated with reticular formation

Diseases affecting reticular formation are usually very serious, as interference with this region of the brain leads to coma or death.

For example, late-stage Parkinson’s disease can alter this neural network as it spreads throughout the nervous system. Likewise, narcolepsy, directly involved in altered states of consciousness, produces adverse effects on reticular formation.

Another disease linked to this neural network is cataplexyThe main symptom is loss of muscle tone; Somehow, while awake, the body begins to behave as if it is in REM sleep, which means the brain is disconnected from the muscles.

Beyond diseases related to deteriorating processes of unknown causes or to the action of viruses, lesions can also seriously impair the functioning of the reticular formation, leading to coma or brain death in a large number of cases.

It is one of the most vulnerable areas of the nervous system, Not only because it intervenes directly in the state of consciousness, but because it participates in the maintenance of basic vital functions without which sudden death occurs due to cerebral hypoxia. This is why the functioning of this region is considered an indicator of the presence of an even more reliable life than the recording of electrical activity by means of techniques such as EEG in more superficial areas of the cerebral cortex. .

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