Medulla Oblongata is the lowest bud on the brain stem. It encloses
the fourth ventricle "a fluid-filled cavity formed by the
expansion of the central canal of the spinal cord upon entering
the brain,"1 and
is continuous with the spinal cord at the opening at the base of
the skull. Carrying on various complex integrative functions, its
nuclei are associated with most of the cranial nerves and fiber
tracts, which link it to the higher nerve centers.
mythological personification is found in the phonetic
imagination, as Medusa. Originally
a lovely woman, a granddaughter of Gaia, the Earth Mother, she
was seduced by Poseidon in
a temple of the goddess Athene,
a desecration for which Athene changed her into a hideous Gorgon,
chained in a cave in the underworld.
Injuries or disease of the
lateral medulla can cause loss of pain and temperature sensations. Along
with the pons and the thalamus, the medulla also has some influence on
are arousal from sleep, as well as regulating vertigo, vomiting, coordination,
and relaying the taste sensation of the tongue.
tongue "lolls," much
like that of the Indian goddess Kali, as well as other
images found on Rhodes.2 In
Old Europe, this Gorgon's image began to appear in the Upper
Paleolithic, and continued for thousands of years before her
entrance into Greek mythology. A Master of Animals, primarily
of birds and snakes (her owl-like eyes and snaky coiffure), her posture was that
of feminine empowerment.
Where the transition
from the medulla to the spinal cord takes place, there are two
major crossings of nerve fibers; thus, injury or disease affecting one
side of the medulla produces symptoms at the opposite side of the
body. So vital is this essential organ, this marrow,
that any injury to it can result in paralysis, or death.
in the Greek myth a young would-be hero named Perseus sets
out to get the Gorgon's head. As anyone who gazed on Medusa was turned
to stone, this task seemed impossible. But Athene showed Perseus how
to use his shield as a mirror, and so murder Medusa without directly
looking at her. She also gave him a helmet that made him invisible, a
sickle for the deed, winged sandals for a fast getaway, and a magic wallet
in which to safely carry the, still powerful, severed