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Corticospinal Tract: Function & Anatomy

Instructor: Meghan Greenwood

Meghan has taught undergraduate and graduate level science courses and has a PhD in Immunology.

This lesson will describe the brain's main sections as well as the motor cortext, where the corticospinal tract originates. The function and anatomy of the tract will also be detailed.

Brain and Motor Neurons

Think of an electronic device that requires a power source and delivers a controllable output. A kitchen mixer, a remote control car, and a vacuum cleaner are all good examples. Once these devices are plugged in, an invisible, electrical current sends a signal to the machine, giving it power. As the controller, you are then able to turn on the device and change the speed. Our brains are similar to these everyday items, in that they contain a power source of nerves and allow you to control your muscle movements.

The brain is a very complex organ. The main parts of the brain include the cerebrum, cerebellum, and brainstem, as seen in the image below. The cerebrum and cerebellum control the cognitive and voluntary functions of the body. The brainstem connects to your spinal cord, which together can be thought of as the power cord to your household device. The brainstem is responsible for regulating your heartbeat and breathing, but it also contains nerves that control your motor or movement functions.

The main components of the brain include the cerebrum, cerebellum, and the brainstem
Main parts of brain

The Corticospinal Tract

The nerve fibers that travel from the brain through the stem to your spinal cord are considered part of the corticospinal tract. The corticospinal tract conducts impulses from the brain to your muscles in a voluntary manner - this means that you're in control of the movements conducted by this tract. The corticospinal tract mainly controls your upper and lower limbs. Picking up a plate, sitting down, and flexing your feet are all examples of voluntary motions controlled by your corticospinal tract. The rest of the voluntary motions, such as swallowing, chewing, and facial expressions are regulated by the corticobulbar tract.

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