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What Is the Pons?

Graphic of highlighted pons brain area of the brain stem.
REM sleep is an important part of any sleep cycle.
Some scientists believe that the pons is important to REM sleep and dreaming.
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  • Written By: Harriette Halepis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2014
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The pons, also referred to as pons Varoli, is a formation consisting of nerve fibers that is located on the brain stem. It is situated directly above the medulla and below the midbrain. The main function of this structure is to pass information between the cerebellum and cerebrum. In addition, it helps to send other messages to the brain, manage arousal feelings, and monitor respiration.

Some scientists believe that the structure is an important part of dreaming, since it is responsible for Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep is an essential part of any sleep cycle, though the elimination of REM sleep does not necessarily result in the elimination of dreams. Based upon this fact, other scientists argue that it plays no part in regards to dreams.

Anatomically, the pons looks like an elongated doorknob, and it is formed from nerves that run horizontally from the left to the right. The back of this structure forms the fourth ventricle of the brain. It is subject to a disease called central pontine myelinosis, which can lead to death if not treated right away.

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Central pontine myelinosis is generally caused by a lack of sodium in the blood. Symptoms of this disease include paralysis, difficulty swallowing, and difficulty speaking. Anyone suffering from these symptoms should consult with a medical professional right away. While there is little treatment available for this disease, it can be avoided by having sodium levels checked regularly during a routine physical examination.

When this disease strikes, those patients that recover are often left with stroke-like symptoms. Since the brain is filled with many different sensitive structures, damage to any portion can be is severe. Patients who have suffered from this disease cannot recover completely, though some learn to live normal lives again following proper and careful treatment.

There is a lot of speculation surrounding the pons area of the brain. During the 1970s, many physicians and scientists alike thought that this structure was responsible for a number of sleep-related ailments. Even though these theories have largely been disproved, this structure still remains shrouded in mystery. In fact, there are many areas of the brain that have not been completely revealed. As scientists study different areas of the human brain, certain behaviors and physical ailments are better understood. The brain has been studied since the beginning of mankind, though today's technology makes studying the brain a little bit easier.

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kylee07drg
Post 3

The pons also communicates through the spinal cord. It makes sense that problems in the pons could cause paralysis, because I know that any issue involving the spinal cord can cause paralysis as well.

This article makes me want to have my sodium level checked. I have cut way down on my salt intake because I have high blood pressure. I hope that this is not drastic enough to cause low sodium to the point that my pons could be affected. I don't have any of the symptoms of central pontine myelinosis, but it wouldn't hurt to make sure I'm not at risk.

I never would have thought that sodium levels could affect my brain! I guess everything you put in your body, or don't put in your body, matters.

lighth0se33
Post 2

My uncle's liver disease caused him to develop central pontine myelinosis. At first, the doctors thought he must have been an alcoholic, because alcoholism can also bring on the disease. Then, they found out that he had been taking acetaminophen every day for about 20 years, and they believed that caused his liver disease, which brought on the central pontine myelinosis.

Before we knew he had central pontine myelinosis, he started behaving strangely. He could not enunciate words properly, he hallucinated now and then, he had problems keeping his balance, and his face muscles became weak. My aunt looked up his symptoms online to find out what might be going on with him.

She discovered that central pontine myelinosis can cause all of these symptoms. It is so sad that he will never be the same.

cloudel
Post 1

My friend's grandmother suffered from central pontine myelinosis. She told me that it happened because her sodium level had risen too high, and when the doctor tried to correct this, the level shot way low, and this brought on the condition.

What happens in central pontine myelinosis is that the myelin sheath covering the nerves in the brain is destroyed. Without it, the nerves can't transmit signals properly.

My friend had other relatives who had suffered strokes, and she said that her grandmother originally thought that was what had happened to her, because the symptoms were so similar. She is partially paralyzed, and she is learning to cope through therapy.

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