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Rostral vs Caudal

Meaning and difference between the two directional terms rostral and caudal.

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Hello everybody! This is Matt from Kenhub, and this tutorial, we'll discuss the directions rostral and caudal and what they describe. This gets a little tricky because they mean one thing when referring to any part of the body below the midbrain and, above it, they indicate other directions. So, bear with me. I'll get you through it.

First, we will discuss what each refers to below the midbrain. In the body, rostral means towards the head or face and caudal means away from the head or towards the tail. In animals, this is fairly straightforward, but when you are referring to anatomical landmarks in humans, just remember that rostral indicates location that is closer to the superior plane of the body and caudal means away from it.

On this image, we see the medial view of the brain, where we can highlight in pink and yellow the two areas that are found above and below the midbrain like a map with a compass that points north, south, east and west. The directions on the body are superior, inferior, posterior and anterior. Above the midbrain, those directions can be interchanged with dorsal, ventral, rostral and caudal respectively. For structures located below the midbrain, we can either use the superior, inferior, posterior and anterior compass for directions or use the terms that have similar meanings such as rostral, caudal, ventral and dorsal. I mean, why have one word to describe location when you can have two, right? And to make it even more fun.

When we are referring to anatomical direction above the midbrain, the terms rostral and caudal switch. Anterior, superior, inferior and posterior stay the same. There is a turn of 100 degrees above the midbrain. And so when we are referring to rostral, it means toward the face or anterior part of the brain. Think, rostral rhymes with nostril. It refers to the part of the brain close to the nose, and caudal will refer to the posterior part of the brain. Dorsal is referring to the top of the brain and ventral to the inferior. While below the midbrain, ventral means towards the front of the body or towards the belly and dorsal towards the back.

So, imagine, your compass is on the left lateral side of the body and then as it moves up superior to the midbrain, it turns so that the direction seems to switch. It's really helpful to remember the mnemonic of rostral and nostril so that even when you are thinking of location below the midbrain, you can mentally place the landmark closer to the nostrils. In the body, that means up and, in the brain, that means forward.

Now that you just completed this video tutorial, then it’s time for you to continue your learning experience by testing and also applying your knowledge. There are three ways you can do so here at Kenhub. The first one is by clicking on our “start training” button, the second one is by browsing through our related articles library, and the third one is by checking out our atlas.

Now, good luck everyone, and I will see you next time.

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