Responses of spinohypothalamic tract neurons in the thoracic spinal cord of rats to somatic stimuli and to graded distention of the bile duct

Xijing Zhang, Alex P. Gokin, Glenn J. Giesler

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13 Scopus citations


Anatomical studies indicate that a relatively large percentage of spinohypothalamic tract (SHT) neurons are located within thoracic spinal segments. The aim of this study was to characterize the responses of SHT neurons in these segments of rats to innocuous and noxious stimulation of the skin and of a visceral structure, the bile duct. In addition, we attempted to determine the trajectories of the axons of the examined neurons within the diencephalon and brainstem. Fifty-three SHT neurons were recorded within segments T8-T13 in urethane anesthetized rats. Each cell was antidromically activated using current pulses ≤ 30 μA delivered from the tip of an electrode located within the contralateral hypothalamus. The recording points were located in the superficial dorsal horn (9) and deep dorsal horn (44). All examined SHT neurons had receptive fields on the posterior thorax and anterior and ventral abdomen of the ipsilateral side. Ninety percent of the 41 SHT neurons responded exclusively (13) or preferentially (24) to noxious cutaneous stimuli. Thirteen of 27 (48%) examined units were activated by forceful distention of the bile duct. Response thresholds ranged from 30 to 40 mmHg. Responses incremented as pressures were increased to 50-80 mmHg. The axons of 22 of 28 (79%) examined SHT neurons appeared to cross the midline within the hypothalamus and terminate in the ipsilateral hypothalamus, thalamus or midbrain. The results indicate that SHT neurons in thoracic spinal cord of rats are capable of conveying somatic and visceral nociceptive information from the bile duct directly to targets at various levels of the brain bilaterally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-17
Number of pages13
JournalSomatosensory and Motor Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank H.Truong for vaablelutechnical assistance and Dr Martin Weensdorsf for critically reading an earlyvesionrotfshmanuscript.i Thiswokwasr supported by NIH grant NS252.93


  • Bile duct
  • Dorsal horn
  • Spinal cord
  • Spinohypothalamic tract
  • Thoracic segment
  • Visceral pain


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