Parts of the Brain Stem Terminology: The Midbrain

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  • 0:01 Hearing and Seeing
  • 0:19 The Brainstem and Midbrain
  • 1:18 The Corpora Quadrigemina
  • 2:30 Other Parts of the Midbrain
  • 3:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson will briefly describe the brainstem and then go over the important functions of the midbrain. Key terms include: brainstem, mesencephalon, midbrain, corpora quadrigemina, superior colliculi, inferior colliculi, substantia nigra, and red nuclei.

Hearing and Seeing

What's involved in hearing? Your ears. What's involved in seeing? Your eyes. Those are the obvious answers almost anyone can come up with. Yet there are plenty of other structures involved in both auditory and visual processes. Some structures that you may have never even heard of! And there are several of them that involve the midbrain, the topic that we're going to discuss today.

The Brainstem and Midbrain

Your brain is composed of many different parts, large and small. In the posterior, or back part of the brain, is a section of the brain called the brainstem, a stem-like portion of the brain that is made of the medulla oblongata, pons, and midbrain. It is in the brainstem where some of your most basic, but also most important, processes lie.

One of the sections of the brainstem is known as the mesencephalon, the midbrain, the most superior part of the brainstem. By superior, I'm not trying to say it's the most important part of the brainstem; rather that it is anatomically positioned above the other parts of the brainstem. The term 'mesencephalon' comes from 'mesos' and 'encephalo.' 'Meso-' implies 'middle' and the combining form of 'encephal/o' means 'brain.' So does cerebr/o, by the way.

The Corpora Quadrigemina

To understand what the midbrain does, we need to break its important aspects down into parts. Let's start with the corpora quadrigemina - four colliculi, the two superior and two inferior. 'Corpora' means 'body' and 'quadri' refers to 'four,' so four bodies, while a 'colliculus' is a term for 'a small elevation.'

Again, superior and inferior relate to their anatomical positions, not their importance. The superior colliculi are part of the visual pathway, while the inferior colliculi are part of the auditory pathway. Namely, they help us orientate our body with respect to sensory information. For example, if all of a sudden something seems to be coming towards you from the side and your eyes look towards it, that would be thanks to the superior colliculi. If you turn your head towards a startling sound, you can thank the inferior colliculi.

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