Termination Zones of Functionally Characterized Spinothalamic Tract Neurons Within the Primate Posterior Thalamus

J Neurophysiol. 2008 Oct;100(4):2026-37. doi: 10.1152/jn.90810.2008. Epub 2008 Aug 13.

Abstract

The primate posterior thalamus has been proposed to contribute to pain sensation, but its precise role is unclear. This is in part because spinothalamic tract (STT) neurons that project to the posterior thalamus have received little attention. In this study, antidromic mapping was used to identify individual STT neurons with axons that projected specifically to the posterior thalamus in Macaca fascicularis. Each axon was located by antidromic activation at low stimulus amplitudes (<30 microA) and was then surrounded distally by a grid of stimulating points in which 500-microA stimuli were unable to activate the axon antidromically, thereby indicating the termination zone. Several nuclei within the posterior thalamus were targets of STT neurons: the posterior nucleus, suprageniculate nucleus, magnocellular part of the medial geniculate nucleus, and limitans nucleus. STT neurons projecting to the ventral posterior inferior nucleus were also studied. Twenty-five posterior thalamus-projecting STT neurons recorded in lumbar spinal cord were characterized by their responses to mechanical, thermal, and chemical stimuli. Sixteen of 25 neurons were recorded in the marginal zone and the balance was located within the deep dorsal horn. Thirteen neurons were classified as wide dynamic range and 12 as high threshold. One-third of STT neurons projecting to posterior thalamus responded to noxious heat (50 degrees C). Two-thirds of those tested responded to cooling. Seventy-one percent responded to an intradermal injection of capsaicin. These data indicate that the primate STT transmits noxious and innocuous mechanical, thermal, and chemical information to multiple posterior thalamic nuclei.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Capsaicin / pharmacology
  • Cold Temperature
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electrophysiology
  • Hot Temperature
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Posterior Horn Cells / physiology
  • Posterior Thalamic Nuclei / cytology
  • Posterior Thalamic Nuclei / physiology*
  • Spinothalamic Tracts / cytology*
  • Spinothalamic Tracts / physiology*
  • Stimulation, Chemical

Substances

  • Capsaicin