A comparative reappraisal of projections from the superficial laminae of the dorsal horn in the rat: the forebrain

J Comp Neurol. 2004 Jan 1;468(1):24-56. doi: 10.1002/cne.10873.


Projections to the forebrain from lamina I of spinal and trigeminal dorsal horn were labeled anterogradely with Phaseolus vulgaris-leucoagglutinin (PHA-L) and/or tetramethylrhodamine-dextran (RHO-D) injected microiontophoretically. Injections restricted to superficial laminae (I/II) of dorsal horn were used primarily. For comparison, injections were also made in deep cervical laminae. Spinal and trigeminal lamina I neurons project extensively to restricted portions of the ventral posterolateral and posteromedial (VPL/VPM), and the posterior group (Po) thalamic nuclei. Lamina I also projects to the triangular posterior (PoT) and the ventral posterior parvicellular (VPPC) thalamic nuclei but only very slightly to the extrathalamic forebrain. Furthermore, the lateral spinal (LS) nucleus, and to a lesser extent lamina I, project to the mediodorsal thalamic nucleus. In contrast to lamina I, deep spinal laminae project primarily to the central lateral thalamic nucleus (CL) and only weakly to the remaining thalamus, except for a medium projection to the PoT. Furthermore, the deep laminae project substantially to the globus pallidus and the substantia innominata and more weakly to the amygdala and the hypothalamus. Double-labeling experiments reveal that spinal and trigeminal lamina I project densely to distinct and restricted portions of VPL/VPM, Po, and VPPC thalamic nuclei, whereas projections to the PoT appeared to be convergent. In conclusion, these experiments indicate very different patterns of projection for lamina I versus deep laminae (III-X). Lamina I projects strongly onto relay thalamic nuclei and thus would have a primary role in sensory discriminative aspects of pain. The deep laminae project densely to the CL and more diffusely to other forebrain targets, suggesting roles in motor and alertness components of pain.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / anatomy & histology
  • Animals
  • Hypothalamus / anatomy & histology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Limbic System / anatomy & histology
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Posterior Horn Cells / anatomy & histology*
  • Prosencephalon / anatomy & histology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Spinal Cord / anatomy & histology*
  • Spinothalamic Tracts / anatomy & histology
  • Substantia Innominata / anatomy & histology
  • Thalamic Nuclei / anatomy & histology*
  • Thalamus / anatomy & histology
  • Trigeminal Nuclei / anatomy & histology*