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J Comp Neurol. 1995 Oct 16;361(2):225-48.

Distribution of brainstem projections from spinal lamina I neurons in the cat and the monkey.

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Division of Neurobiology, Barrow Neurological Institute, Phoenix, Arizona 85013, USA.


The distribution of terminal projections in the brainstem from lamina I neurons in the spinal dorsal horn was investigated with the anterograde tracer Phaseolus vulgaris-leucoagglutinin in the cat and the cynomolgus monkey. Iontophoretic injections made with physiological guidance were restricted to lamina I or to laminae I-III in the cervical (C6-8) or lumbar (L6-7) enlargement. The distribution of terminal labeling was essentially identical in the cat and the monkey, although consistently of greater intensity in the monkey. Terminations were observed in the solitary nucleus, the dorsomedial medullary reticular formation, the entire rostrocaudal extent of the ventrolateral medulla, the locus coeruleus, the subcoerulear region and the K├Âlliker-Fuse nucleus, the lateral and medial portions of the parabrachial nucleus, the cuneiform nucleus, the ventrolateral and lateral portions of the periaqueductal gray, and the intercollicular nucleus. Lamina I terminations were generally bilateral in the medulla but more dense contralaterally in the pons and mesencephalon. The density and laterality of labeling in the medulla varied between cases independently from that in the pons and mesencephalon, suggesting that the lamina I projections to these regions may originate from different subsets of neurons. A clear topographic organization was observed only in the lateral column of the periaqueductal gray, where lumbar lamina I terminations were found caudal to cervical terminations. These observations indicate that spinal lamina I neurons project to a variety of brainstem sites involved in autonomic (cardiovascular, respiratory) and homeostatic processing and the control of behavioral state. These projections provide an afferent substrate for spino-bulbo-spinal somatoautonomic reflex arcs activated by nociceptive, thermoreceptive activity and for a spino-bulbo-hypothalamic relay of such activity by cells in the caudal ventrolateral medulla. These observations support the general concept that lamina I projections distribute modality-selective sensory information relevant to the physiological status and maintenance of the tissues and organs of the entire organism.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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