Neural - Medulla Oblongata Development

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Historic Ziegler Model of the Medulla
Historic Ziegler Model of the Medulla

The medulla or medulla oblongata develops from the secondary brain vesicle the myelencephalon, that in turn formed from the earlier primary brain vesicle rhombencephalon. The neural tube lateral walls have 2 halves (alar and a basal lamina) and are connected by a floor plate and roof-plate region.

Neural development is one of the earliest systems to begin and the last to be completed after birth. This development generates the most complex structure within the embryo and the long time period of development means in utero insult during pregnancy may have consequences to development of the nervous system.

The early central nervous system begins as a simple neural plate that folds to form a groove then tube, open initially at each end. Failure of these opening to close contributes a major class of neural abnormalities (neural tube defects).

Within the neural tube stem cells generate the 2 major classes of cells that make the majority of the nervous system : neurons and glia. Both these classes of cells differentiate into many different types generated with highly specialized functions and shapes. This section covers the establishment of neural populations, the inductive influences of surrounding tissues and the sequential generation of neurons establishing the layered structure seen in the brain and spinal cord. Neural development beginnings quite early, therefore also look at notes covering Week 3 neural tube and Week 4 early nervous system.

Historic Medulla Embryology  
Historic Disclaimer - information about historic embryology pages 
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Pages where the terms "Historic" (textbooks, papers, people, recommendations) appear on this site, and sections within pages where this disclaimer appears, indicate that the content and scientific understanding are specific to the time of publication. This means that while some scientific descriptions are still accurate, the terminology and interpretation of the developmental mechanisms reflect the understanding at the time of original publication and those of the preceding periods, these terms, interpretations and recommendations may not reflect our current scientific understanding.     (More? Embryology History | Historic Embryology Papers)

Sabin FR. and Knower H. An atlas of the medulla and midbrain, a laboratory manual (1901) Baltimore: Friedenwald.

Essick CR. The development of the nuclei pontis and the nucleus arcuatus in man. (1912) Amer. J Anat. 13(1): -54.

Neural Links: ectoderm | neural | neural crest | ventricular | sensory | Stage 22 | gliogenesis | neural fetal | Medicine Lecture - Neural | Lecture - Ectoderm | Lecture - Neural Crest | Lab - Early Neural | neural abnormalities | folic acid | iodine deficiency | Fetal Alcohol Syndrome | neural postnatal | neural examination | Histology | Historic Neural | Category:Neural

Neural Parts: neural | prosencephalon | telencephalon cerebrum | amygdala | hippocampus | basal ganglia | diencephalon | epithalamus | thalamus | hypothalamus‎ | pituitary | pineal | mesencephalon | tectum | rhombencephalon | metencephalon | pons | cerebellum | myelencephalon | medulla oblongata | spinal cord | neural vascular | ventricular | lateral ventricles | third ventricle | cerebral aqueduct | fourth ventricle | central canal | meninges | Category:Ventricular System | Category:Neural

Some Recent Findings

Brain stem subdivisions

  • Review - Time for Radical Changes in Brain Stem Nomenclature-Applying the Lessons From Developmental Gene Patterns[1] "The traditional subdivision of the brain stem into midbrain, pons, and medulla oblongata is based purely on the external appearance of the human brain stem. There is an urgent need to update the names of brain stem structures to be consistent with the discovery of rhomobomeric segmentation based on gene expression. The most important mistakes are the belief that the pons occupies the upper half of the hindbrain, the failure to recognize the isthmus as the first segment of the hindbrain, and the mistaken inclusion of diencephalic structures in the midbrain. The new nomenclature will apply to all mammals. This essay recommends a new brain stem nomenclature based on developmental gene expression, progeny analysis, and fate mapping."
  • Spatiotemporal expression of NDRG2 in the human fetal brain[2] "N-myc downstream-regulated gene 2 (NDRG2) has been implicated in the development of central nervous system and brain diseases such as brain tumors, ischemic stroke and neurodegenerative disorders. However, it remains unclear that the spatiotemporal distribution of NDRG2 in the human fetal brain. In this study, we examined the expression pattern of NDRG2 in different regions of human fetal brain at 16-28 gestational weeks (GWs) by using RT-PCR, western blot and immunohistochemistry. Firstly, RT-PCR revealed that mRNA of NDRG2 was detected in the human brain regions of fetuses at 16-28 GWs such as medulla oblongata (MdO), mesencephalon (MeE), cerebellum (Cbl), frontal lobe (Fr), ventricular (VZ)/subventricular zone (SVZ) and hippocampus (hip), and the expressions of NDRG2 mRNA in these human fetal brain regions were increased with gestational maturation. Furthermore, western blot and immunohistochemistry results revealed that at 28 GWs, the expression of NDRG2 protein was restricted to the MdO's olivary nucleus, MeE's aqueduct, cerebellar internal granular layers, cerebral cortex of the Fr, VZ/SVZ of lateral ventricle, and hippocampal dentate gyrus, and highest expression in the VZ/SVZ, and lowest in the MeE. Finally, double immunohistochemistry results showed that NDRG2 in the MdO, Cbl and VZ/SV at 28 GWS was mainly expressed in neurons (NeuN positive cells), and in some astrocytes (GFAP positive cells). Taken together, these results suggest that NDRG2 is mainly expressed in human fetal neurons of various brain regions during development, which may be involved in neuronal growth and maturation."
  • A neuronal migratory pathway crossing from diencephalon to telencephalon populates amygdala nuclei[3] "Neurons usually migrate and differentiate in one particular encephalic vesicle. We identified a murine population of diencephalic neurons that colonized the telencephalic amygdaloid complex, migrating along a tangential route that crosses a boundary between developing brain vesicles. The diencephalic transcription factor OTP was necessary for this migratory behavior."
More recent papers
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Search term: Medulla Oblongata Embryology

<pubmed limit=5>Medulla Oblongata Embryology</pubmed>

Development Overview

Neuralation begins at the trilaminar embryo with formation of the notochord and somites, both of which underly the ectoderm and do not contribute to the nervous system, but are involved with patterning its initial formation. The central portion of the ectoderm then forms the neural plate that folds to form the neural tube, that will eventually form the entire central nervous system.

Early developmental sequence: Epiblast - Ectoderm - Neural Plate - Neural groove and Neural Crest - Neural Tube and Neural Crest

Neural Tube Development
Neural Tube Primary Vesicles Secondary Vesicles Adult Structures
week 3 week 4 week 5 adult
neural plate
neural groove
neural tube

prosencephalon (forebrain) telencephalon Rhinencephalon, Amygdala, hippocampus, cerebrum (cortex), hypothalamus‎, pituitary | Basal Ganglia, lateral ventricles
diencephalon epithalamus, thalamus, Subthalamus, pineal, posterior commissure, pretectum, third ventricle
mesencephalon (midbrain) mesencephalon tectum, Cerebral peduncle, cerebral aqueduct, pons
rhombencephalon (hindbrain) metencephalon cerebellum
myelencephalon medulla oblongata, isthmus
spinal cord, pyramidal decussation, central canal

Early Brain Vesicles

Primary Vesicles

CNS primary vesicles.jpg

Secondary Vesicles

CNS secondary vesicles.jpg

Historic Ziegler Model

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Image of information attached to underside of Medulla model base.

Model for explaining the course and the fiber cores of the midbrain and the medulla oblongata of the newborn. (Modell zur Erläuterung des Faserverlaufes und der Kerne des Mittelhirnes und des verlängerten Markes eines Neugeborenen.)

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Medulla Model

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Medulla Model

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Links: Ziegler Models


  1. Watson C, Bartholomaeus C & Puelles L. (2019). Time for Radical Changes in Brain Stem Nomenclature-Applying the Lessons From Developmental Gene Patterns. Front Neuroanat , 13, 10. PMID: 30809133 DOI.
  2. Jin PP, Xia F, Ma BF, Li Z, Zhang GF, Deng YC, Tu ZL, Zhang XX & Hou SX. (2019). Spatiotemporal expression of NDRG2 in the human fetal brain. Ann. Anat. , 221, 148-155. PMID: 30312765 DOI.
  3. García-Moreno F, Pedraza M, Di Giovannantonio LG, Di Salvio M, López-Mascaraque L, Simeone A & De Carlos JA. (2010). A neuronal migratory pathway crossing from diencephalon to telencephalon populates amygdala nuclei. Nat. Neurosci. , 13, 680-9. PMID: 20495559 DOI.



Duncan JR, Paterson DS & Kinney HC. (2008). The development of nicotinic receptors in the human medulla oblongata: inter-relationship with the serotonergic system. Auton Neurosci , 144, 61-75. PMID: 18986852 DOI.

Lorke DE, Kwong WH, Chan WY & Yew DT. (2003). Development of catecholaminergic neurons in the human medulla oblongata. Life Sci. , 73, 1315-31. PMID: 12850246

Tan K & Le Douarin NM. (1991). Development of the nuclei and cell migration in the medulla oblongata. Application of the quail-chick chimera system. Anat. Embryol. , 183, 321-43. PMID: 1867385

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Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2024, March 5) Embryology Neural - Medulla Oblongata Development. Retrieved from

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