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J Comp Neurol. 2004 Sep 13;477(2):119-48.

Distribution of trigeminothalamic and spinothalamic lamina I terminations in the macaque monkey.

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  • 1Atkinson Research Laboratory, Barrow Neurological Institute, Phoenix, Arizona 85013, USA.


Thalamic terminations from trigeminal, cervical, and lumbosacral lamina I neurons were investigated with Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin (PHA-L) and labeled dextrans. Iontophoretic injections guided by physiological recordings were restricted to lamina I or laminae I-II. PHA-L-labeled trigemino- and spinothalamic (TSTT) terminations were identified immunohistochemically. TRITC- and FITC-labeled dextrans were injected at different levels to confirm topography. Terminations consistently occurred in two main locations: a distinguishable portion of posterolateral thalamus identified cytoarchitectonically as the posterior part of the ventral medial nucleus (VMpo) and a portion of posteromedial thalamus designated as the ventral caudal part of the medial dorsal nucleus (MDvc). In addition, isolated fibers bearing boutons of passage were observed in the ventral posterior medial and lateral (VPM and VPL) nuclei, and spinal terminations occurred in the ventral posterior inferior nucleus (VPI). Isolated terminations occasionally occurred in other sites (e.g., suprageniculate, zona incerta, hypothalamic paraventricular n.). Terminations in MDvc occurred in concise foci that were weakly organized topographically (posteroanterior = rostrocaudal). Terminations in VMpo consisted of dense clusters of ramified terminal arbors bearing multiple large boutons that were well organized topographically (anteroposterior = rostrocaudal). Terminations in VMpo colocalized with a field of calbindin-immunoreactive terminal fibers; double-labeled terminals were documented at high magnification. This propitious marker was especially useful at anterior levels, where VMpo can easily be misidentified as VPM. These findings demonstrate phylogenetically novel primate lamina I TSTT projections important for sensory and motivational aspects of pain, temperature, itch, muscle ache, sensual touch, and other interoceptive feelings from the body.

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