The medulla oblongata is a cone-shaped part of the brain that is located on the lowermost portion of the brain stem and gradually transitions into the spinal cord. This specialized area serves as the major pathway for nerve impulses that enter and leave the neural systems confined to the skull. Interestingly, it is within the medulla that both sensory and motor nerve fibers, traveling from the left and right hemispheres of the brain into the rest of the body, actually cross over to the opposite side. Because of this juncture, the left half of the brain sends and receives messages from the right side of the body, while the right hemisphere communicates with the left side. As part of the most primitive region of the brain, the medulla is responsible for some of the most basic functions of life such as the involuntary processes of breathing, swallowing, and digesting. The medulla also operates in tandem with the cerebellum to control movement, and works in conjunction with the thalamus to regulate states of arousal and sleep.