Projections to the spinal cord from medullary somatosensory relay nuclei

H. Burton, A. D. Loewy

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133 Scopus citations


Descending projections to the spinal card from the dorsal column nuclei were studied in the cat, rat and monkey with the retrograde horseradish peroxidase (HRP) technique, and in the cat with the autoradiographic anterograde axonal transport technique. Retrogradely labeled neurons were seen in the dorsal column nuclei after HRP injections at all levels of the spinal cord and additionally in the magnocellular division of the spinal caudalis nucleus of the trigeminal nerve after injections into cervical spinal segments in all three species. HRP‐positive neurons were predominantly located along the middle of the rostro‐caudal axis of the dorsal column nuclei and amongst the fusiform, triangular and polygonal cells that surround, especially ventrally, the cell nest zone containing thalamic relay neurons. The labeled neurons are densely concentrated in those portions of the dorsal column nuclei where most corticofugal and non‐primary afferent projections terminate and where the terminal distribution of primary afferent fibers is overlapping and diffuse. Previous studies have shown that most neurons in this middle and ventral region do not project to the thalamus or cerebellum. The majority of the cells in the dorsal column nuclei with descending axons or axon collaterals project by way of the ipsilateral dorsal columns, but some fibers project into the dorsolateral funiculus; the descending trigeminal fibers course in the dorsolateral funiculus. The terminal fields for these fibers in the cervical spinal cord include the lateral cervical nucleus, laminae IV and V, and possibly lamina I. These results indicate that the dorsal column nuclei may contribute to a feedback mechanism regulating the flow of sensory information ascending along other somatosensory spinal pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)773-792
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 15 1977


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