Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

The termination of the spinothalamic tract in the cat an experimental study with silver impregnation methods


The termination of the spinothalamic tract (STT) in the cat has been studied light microscopically in Fink-Heimer and Nauta impregnated sections. Following lesions of the STT at various rostrocaudal levels of the spinal cord the degenerating fibres in the thalamus and subthalamus were mapped, mainly in transverse sections. The cervicothalamic tract was not injured by the lesions.

The spinothalamic fibres enter the diencephalon through the mesencephalic reticular formation and terminate in the following regions: the medial portion of the magnocellular part of the medial geniculate body (MGmc), the ventrolateral portion of the medial part of the posterior nuclear complex (POm), the caudolateral and medial parts of the zona incerta (ZI), the nucleus centralis medialis (CeM), the nucleus parafascicularis (Pf), the lateral part of the nucleus centralis lateralis (CL), the medial and rostrolateral parts of the nucleus ventralis lateralis (VL). To reach these regions the fibres pass through the nucleus centrum medianum (CM), the nucleus subparafascicularis (SPf) and the nucleus paracentralis (Pc). The fibres that terminate in the VL pass through Forel's field H1 and the external medullated lamina (EML). Conclusive results were not obtained concerning a termination in the CM. The spinothalamic fibres do not pass through nor terminate in the nucleus ventralis posterolateralis (VPL) and the nucleus reticularis (R). The VPL, defined as that portion of the ventral thalamus that receives terminal fibres from the dorsal column nuclei, has been found to extend rostrally only as far as Horsley-Clarke level anterior 10.5. The results strongly support the view that all the spinothalamic fibres terminate ipsilateral to their course in the ventral quadrant of the spinal cord. No signs of a somatotopical organization of the termination of the STT were found.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.



nucleus caudatus


nucleus centralis medialis


circumaqueductal gray substance


nucleus centralis lateralis thalami


nucleus centrum medianum thalami


commissura posterior


cervicothalamic tract


external medullated lamina

H1 :

Forel's field H1


tractus habenulopeduncularis


nucleus cervicalis lateralis


corpus geniculatum laterale


nucleus lateralis posterior thalami


nucleus medialis dorsalis thalami


corpus geniculatum mediale


corpus geniculatum mediale, pars magnocellularis


corpus geniculatum mediale, pars principalis


medial lemniscus


mesencephalic reticular formation


optic tract


nucleus paracentralis thalami


nucleus parafascicularis thalami


posterior group of thalamic nuclei

PO1 :

lateral part of PO

POm :

medial part of PO


nucleus reticularis thalami


nucleus suprageniculatus


spinothalamic tract


nucleus ventralis anterior


nucleus ventralis lateralis thalami


nucleus ventralis medialis thalami


nucleus ventralis posterior inferior


nucleus ventralis posterior lateralis thalami (VPL1 + VPLm)

VPL1 :

lateral part of VPL

VPLm :

medial part of VPL


nucleus ventralis posterior medialis thalami


parvocellular part of VPM


zona incerta


  1. Albe-Fessard, D., Kruger, L.: Duality of unit discharges from cat centrum medianum in response to natural and electrical stimulation. J. Neurophysiol. 25, 4–20 (1962).

  2. Anderson, F.D., Berry, C.M.: Degeneration studies of long ascending fiber systems in the cat brain stem. J. comp. Neurol. 111, 195–229 (1959).

  3. Boivie, J.: The termination of the cervicothalamic tract in cat. An experimental study with silver impregnation methods. Brain Res. 19, 333–360 (1970a).

  4. - The termination in the thalamus and the zona incerta of fibres from the dorsal column nuclei (DCN) in the cat. An experimental study with silver impregnation methods. Submitted for publication in Exp. Brain Res. (1970b).

  5. —, Grant, G., Ulfendahl, H.: The X—Y recorder used for mapping under the microscope. Acta physiol. scand. 74, 1A-2A (1968).

  6. Bowsher, D.: Termination of the central pain pathway in man: the conscious appreciation of pain. Brain 80, 606–622 (1957).

  7. —: The termination of secondary somatosensory neurons within the thalamus of Macaca mulatta: An experimental degeneration study. J. comp. Neurol. 117, 213–228 (1961).

  8. Breazile, J.E., Kitchell, R.L.: Ventrolateral spinal cord afferents to the brain stem in the domestic pig. J. comp. Neurol. 133, 363–372 (1968).

  9. Clark, W.E. le Gros: The termination of ascending tracts in the thalamus of the Macaque monkey. J. Anat. (Lond.) 71, 7–40 (1936).

  10. Denavit, M., Kosinski, E.: Afférences somatiques vers le subthalamus. J. Physiol. (Paris) 57, 239 (1965).

  11. Dilly, P.N., Wall, P.D., Webster, K.E.: Cells of origin of the spinothalamic tract in the cat and rat. Exp. Neurol. 21, 550–562 (1968).

  12. Fink, R.P., Heimer, L.: Two methods for selective silver impergnation of degenerating axons and their synaptic endings in the central nervous system. Brain Res. 4, 369–374 (1967).

  13. Getz, B.: The termination of spinothalamic fibers in the cat as studied by the method of terminal degeneration. Acta anat. (Basel) 16, 271–290 (1952).

  14. Grant, G., Boivie, J.: The charting of degenerative changes in nervous tissue with the aid of an electronic pantographic device. Brain Res. 21, 439–442 (1970).

  15. — Brodal, A.: The question of a cerebellar projection from the lateral cervical nucleus re-examined. Brain Res. 9, 95–102 (1968).

  16. Gwyn, D.G., Waldron, H.A.: A nucleus in the dorsolateral funiculus of the spinal cord of the rat. Brain Res. 10, 342–351 (1968).

  17. Hagg, S., Ha, H.: Cervicothalamic tract in the dog. J. comp. Neurol. 139, 357–374 (1970).

  18. Jasper, H.H., Ajmone-Marsan, C.: A stereotaxic atlas of the diencephalon of the cat. Toronto: Univ. Toronto Press 1954.

  19. Kruger, L., Albe-Fessard, D.: Distribution of responses to somatic afferent stimuli in the diencephalon of the cat under chloralose anesthesia. Exp. Neurol. 2, 442–467 (1960).

  20. Lund, R.D., Webster, K.E.: Thalamic afferents from the spinal cord and trigeminal nuclei. J. comp. Neurol. 130, 313–328 (1967).

  21. Massion, J., Angaut, P., Albe-Fessard, D.: Activités évoquées chez le chat dans la région du nucleus ventralis lateralis par diverses stimulations sensorielles. I. Étude macro-physiologique. Electroenceph. clin. Neurophysiol. 19, 433–451 (1965a).

  22. —: Activités évoquées chez le chat dans la région du nucleus ventralis lateralis par diverses stimulations sensorielles. II. Étude microphysiologique. Electroenceph. clin. Neurophysiol. 19, 452–469 (1965b).

  23. — Dormont, J.F.: Localisation spinale et bulbaire des voies afférentes de la somesthésie vers le noyau ventro-latéral du thalamus chez le chat. Electroenceph. clin. Neurophysiol. 21, 437–451 (1966).

  24. Mehler, W.R.: The anatomy of the so-called “pain tract” in man. An analysis of the course and distribution of the ascending fibers of the fasciculus anterolateralis. In: Basis Research in Paraplegia, pp. 26–55. Ed. by J.D. French and Robert Porter W.. Springfield: Thomas 1962.

  25. —: Some observations on secondary ascending afferent systems in the central nervous system. In: Pain, pp. 11–32. Ed. by Robert S. Knighton and Paul R. Dumke. Boston: Little, Brown and Company 1966a.

  26. —: Further notes on the center median nucleus of Luys. In: The Thalamus, pp. 109–127. Ed. by D.P. Purpura and M.D. Yahr. New York: Columbia Univ. Press 1966b.

  27. —: Some neurological species differences. — A Posteriori. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 167, 424–468 (1969).

  28. —: Feferman, M.E., Nauta, W.J.H.: Ascending axon degeneration following anterolateral cordotomy. An experimental study in the monkey. Brain 83, 718–750 (1960).

  29. Mizuno, N., Nakano, K., Imaizumi, M., Okamoto, M.: The lateral cervical nucleus of the Japanese monkey (Macaca fuscata). J. comp. Neurol. 129, 375–384 (1967).

  30. Mott, F.W.: Experimental enquiry upon the afferent tracts of the CNS of the monkey. Brain 18, 1–20 (1895).

  31. Nauta, W.J.H.: Silver impregnation of degenerating axons. In: New Research Techniques of Neuroanatomy, pp. 17–26. Ed. by W.F. Windle. Springfield: Thomas 1957.

  32. Oscarsson, O.: Differential course and organisation of uncrossed and crossed long ascending spinal tracts. In: Physiology of Spinal Neurons, Progress in Brain Research, vol. 12, pp. 135–163. Ed. by J.C. Eccles and J.P. Schadé. Amsterdam: Elsevier 1964.

  33. Poggio, G.F., Mountcastle, V.B.: A study of the functional contribution of the lemniscal and spinothalamic systems to somatic sensibility. Central nervous mechanisms in pain. Bull. Johns Hopk. Hosp. 106, 266–316 (1960).

  34. Probst, M.: Zur Kenntnis der Schleifenschicht und über centripitale Rückenmarksfasern zum Deiters'schen Kern, zum Sehhügel und zur Substantia reticularis. Mschr. Psychiat. Neurol. 11, 3–12 (1902).

  35. Rexed, B., Brodal, A.: The nucleus cervicalis lateralis: A spinocerebellar relay nucleus. J. Neurophysiol. 14, 399–407 (1951).

  36. Rinvik, E.: A re-evulation of the cytoarchitecture of the ventral nuclear complex of the cat's thalamus on the basis of corticothalamic connections. Brain Res. 8, 237–254 (1968).

  37. Sherrington, C.S., Laslett, E.E.: Observations on some spinal reflexes and the interconnection of spinal segments. J. Physiol. (Lond.) 29, 58–96 (1903).

  38. Snider, R.S., Niemer, W.T.: A stereotaxic atlas of the cat brain. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press 1961.

  39. Truex, R.C., Taylor, M.J., Smythe, M.Q., Gildenberg, P.L.: The lateral cervical nucleus of cat, dog and man. J. comp. Neurol. 139, 93–104 (1970).

  40. Whitlock, D.G., Perl, E.R.: Afferent projections through ventrolateral funiculi to the thalamus of cat. J. Neurophysiol. 22, 133–148 (1959).

  41. —: Thalamic projections of spinothalamic pathways in monkey. Exp. Neurol. 3, 240–255 (1961).

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Boivie, J. The termination of the spinothalamic tract in the cat an experimental study with silver impregnation methods. Exp Brain Res 12, 331–353 (1971).

Download citation

Key Words

  • Spinal cord
  • Thalamus
  • Silver methods
  • Cat