The medulla oblongata (or medulla) is located in the brainstem, anterior and partially inferior to the cerebellum. It is a cone-shaped neuronal mass responsible for autonomic (involuntary) functions ranging from vomiting to sneezing. The medulla contains the cardiac, respiratory, vomiting and vasomotor centers and therefore deals with the autonomic functions of breathing, heart rate and blood pressure.

During embryonic development the medulla oblongata develops from the myelencephalon. The mylencephalon is a secondary vesicle which forms during the maturation of the rhombencephalon, also referred to as the hindbrain.

The bulb is an archaic term for the medulla oblongata and in modern clinical usage the word bulbar (as in bulbar palsy) is retained for terms that relate to the medulla oblongata, particularly in reference to medical conditions. The word bulbar can refer to the nerves and tracts connected to the medulla, and also by association to those muscles innervated, such as those of the tongue, pharynx and larynx.