Organization of the Efferent Projections From the Spinal Cervical Enlargement to the Parabrachial Area and Periaqueductal Gray: A PHA-L Study in the Rat

J Comp Neurol. 1995 Mar 20;353(4):480-505. doi: 10.1002/cne.903530403.


The organization of efferent projections from the spinal cervical enlargement to the parabrachial (PB) area and the periaqueductal gray (PAG) was studied in the rat by using microinjections of Phaseolus vulgaris-leucoagglutinin (PHA-L) into different laminae around the C7 level. The results demonstrated two areas of cervical enlargement which project in different ways to the PB area and PAG. First, the superficial laminae (I, II) showed a very dense projection, with a clear contralateral dominance at the coronal level where the inferior colliculus merges with the pons, to a restricted "superficial" portion of the PB area, namely the lateral crescent area, the dorsal lateral, the superior lateral (PBsl), and the outer portion of the external lateral PB subnuclei. Less dense projections were observed in the Kölliker-Fuse nucleus (KF) and in the ventrolateral/lateral quadrant of the caudal and mid PAG. By contrast, the labeling was weak or absent in the other PB subnuclei and the outer adjacent regions; in particular, no, or very little, labeling was found in the cuneiform nucleus. The PB area appeared to be the supraspinal target that received the densest projection from laminae I and II. Projections were less dense in the PAG and the thalamus and markedly less in other sites such as the ventrolateral medulla, the subnucleus reticularis dorsalis, and the nucleus of the solitary tract. Second, the reticular portion of lamina V, the medial portion of laminae IV-VI up to X and lamina VIII, showed bilateral projections with a weak ipsilateral dominance and a high to medium density on a very restricted portion of the PB area, namely the internal lateral PB subnucleus. A lesser projection was also observed in the adjacent portion of the PBsl, the KF, and the lateral quadrant of the PAG. These results suggest that signals carried by neurons from lamina I-II converge on a restricted superficial portion of the PB area and the ventral part of the lateral quadrant of the PAG. These results are discussed in the context of the role of the spino-PB and spino-PAG pathways in nociception.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Brain Stem / physiology*
  • Efferent Pathways / physiology
  • Male
  • Neck
  • Periaqueductal Gray / physiology*
  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Spinal Cord / physiology*


  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • leukoagglutinins, plants