Organization of the spinocervicothalamic pathway in the rat

G. J. Giesler, M. Björkeland, Q. Xu, G. Grant

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We used silver degeneration techniques to examine the termination of the spinocervical and cervicothalamic tracts in rats. Lesions of the dorsal portion of the lateral funiculus (DLF) of the spinal cord produced degeneration of a relatively small number of ascending fibers that were seen within the most lateral portion of the DLF rostral to the lesion. Within the lateral cervical nucleus, the degeneration was more extensive mediolaterally and of a finer caliber. Such labeling is attributable to the degeneration of fine fibers and terminals. Degenerating processes could be seen in apposition to neurons in the lateral cervical nucleus. At all levels of the cord, the lateral spinal nucleus was devoid of terminal labeling following lesions of the DLF. No terminal degeneration could be seen within the DLF at levels rostral to the lateral cervical nucleus. Lesions of the DLF at either midcervical or lower thoracic levels produced degeneration throughout the lateral cervical nucleus. This finding suggests that the lateral cervical nucleus of the rat is not somatotopically organized. Lesions of the lateral cervical nucleus produced degeneration of a small number of fibers within the contralateral midbrain and thalamus. Within the mesencephalon, degenerating fibers and terminals were seen primarily in the intercollicular region and the deep layers of the superior colliculus. Less degeneration was found in the lateral portion of the central gray. Within the diencephalon, a small area of termination was located in the ventromedial part of the rostral portion of the medial geniculate nucleus. A prominent termination was present in a restricted area within the caudal fourth of the ventrobasal complex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)223-233
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 8 1988
Externally publishedYes


  • cervicothalamic tract
  • degeneration
  • lateral cervical nucleus
  • spinocervical tract


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