Nociceptive and thermoreceptive lamina I neurons are anatomically distinct

Nat Neurosci. 1998 Jul;1(3):218-25. doi: 10.1038/665.


Pain and temperature stimuli activate neurons of lamina I within the dorsal horn of the spinal cord, and although these neurons can be classified into three basic morphological types and three major physiological classes, earlier studies did not establish a structure/function correlation between their morphology and their physiological responses. We recorded and intracellularly labeled 38 cat lamina I neurons. All 12 fusiform cells were nociceptive-specific, responsive only to pinch and/or heat. All 11 pyramidal cells were thermoreceptive-specific, responsive only to innocuous cooling. Of ten multipolar cells, six were polymodal, responsive to heat, pinch and cold, and four were nociceptive-specific. Five unclassified cells had features consistent with this pattern. These results support the view that central pain and temperature pathways contain anatomically discrete sets of modality-selective neurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Cold Temperature
  • Electrophysiology
  • Female
  • Hot Temperature
  • Male
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Nociceptors / physiology*
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology
  • Spinal Cord / cytology
  • Spinal Cord / physiology*
  • Thermoreceptors / physiology*