Your pons is a part of your brainstem, a structure that links your brain to your spinal cord. It handles unconscious processes and jobs, such as your sleep-wake cycle and breathing. It also contains several junction points for nerves that control muscles and carry information from senses in your head and face.
Your pons is a key merging point for several of your cranial nerves, which are nerves with direct connections to your brain. Those nerve connections are vital, helping with several of the senses on or in your head, plus your ability to move various parts of your face and mouth.
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Your pons is a part of your brainstem, which links your brain to your spinal cord. That makes your pons a vital section of your nervous system, providing a route for signals to travel to and from your brain. Several neurotransmitters in your pons facilitate brain function, particularly sleep.
Your pons handles several important jobs on its own.
In addition, your pons contains several key junctions for four of your 12 cranial nerves, which are nerves that directly connect to your brain. Your cranial nerves (which use Roman numerals for their numbering) that connect to the pons are:
Your pons helps with other organs by relaying sensory input and directly controlling some of your body’s unconscious processes. Those include your sleep-wake cycle and your breathing. Your ability to feel pain is also something your pons handles, and that sensation of pain can help you react to limit or prevent injuries.
Your pons is one of the lowermost structures in your brain, located near the bottom of your skull. It’s just above your medulla oblongata, which then connects to your spinal cord through the opening at the bottom of your skull.
Your pons is a beige or off-white color. Its shape is much like the upper stem of a branch of cauliflower.
Pons’ dimensions are:
Like the rest of your brain and nervous system, your pons consists of various types of nervous system cells and structures. The nuclei (the plural term for “nucleus”) are nerves or clusters of brain cells that have the same job or connect to the same places.
Making up the nuclei are the following types of cells (with more about them below):
Neurons are the cells that send and relay signals through your nervous system, using both electrical and chemical signals. Each neuron consists of the following:
Neuron connections are incredibly complex, and the dendrites on a single neuron may connect to thousands of other synapses. Some neurons are longer or shorter, depending on their location in your body and what they do.
Glial (pronounced glee-uhl) cells have many different purposes, helping develop and maintain neurons when you’re young and managing how the neurons work throughout your entire life. They also protect your nervous system from infections, control the chemical balance in your nervous system and create the myelin coating on the neurons’ axons. Your nervous system has 10 times more glial cells than neurons.
Many of the conditions that affect your brain can affect your pons. Some conditions affect your pons specifically. Examples include (in alphabetical order):
The signs and symptoms of conditions that affect your pons depend strongly on the affected part. Damage to different areas of your pons will affect your body differently. Some of the most common symptoms include:
The following tests are possible when healthcare providers are diagnosing conditions related to your pons:
The treatments for conditions that affect your pons are highly variable. Some conditions are treatable with medication, while others require more advanced care like surgery. Some conditions aren’t curable or treatable. The most likely approach will be to treat the symptoms in those cases. No one treatment exists for all conditions affecting your pons.
Some conditions that affect your pons are preventable, while others happen unpredictably. In many cases, you can reduce the risk of having certain conditions or problems. The best preventive actions you can take include:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Your pons is a small but significant part of your brain. Though it’s a section of your brain that often goes unnoticed, it’s still a vital part of how you live your life and get information about the world around you. It helps manage your breathing, balance, hearing and more. That’s why protecting your brain health from injuries and preventable conditions is an essential part of how you live your life.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/15/2022.
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