Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 101, Issue 2, pp 253–264 | Cite as

The periaqueductal gray in the cat projects to lamina VIII and the medial part of lamina VII throughout the length of the spinal cord

  • Leonora J. Mouton
  • Gert Holstege
Original Paper


The periaqueductal gray (PAG) plays an important role in analgesia as well as in motor activities, such as vocalization, cardiovascular changes, and movements of the neck, back, and hind limbs. Although the anatomical pathways for vocalization and cardiovascular control are rather well understood, this is not the case for the pathways controlling the neck, back, and hind limb movements. This led us to study the direct projections from the PAG to the spinal cord in the cat. In a retrograde tracing study horseradish peroxidase (HRP) was injected into different spinal levels, which resulted in large HRP-labeled neurons in the lateral and ventrolateral PAG and the adjacent mesencephalic tegmentum. Even after an injection in the S2 spinal segment a few of these large neurons were found in the PAG. Wheat germ agglutinin-conjugated HRP injections in the ventrolateral and lateral PAG resulted in anterogradely labeled fibers descending through the ventromedial, ventral, and lateral funiculi. These fibers terminated in lamina VIII and the medial part of lamina VII of the caudal cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral spinal cord. Interneurons in these laminae have been demonstrated to project to axial and proximal muscle motoneurons. The strongest PAG-spinal projections were to the upper cervical cord, where the fibers terminated in the lateral parts of the intermediate zone (laminae V, VII, and the dorsal part of lamina VIII). These laminae contain the premotor interneurons of the neck muscles. This distribution pattern suggests that the PAG-spinal pathway is involved in the control of neck and back movements. Comparing the location of the PAG-spinal neurons with the results of stimulation experiments leads to the supposition that the PAG-spinal neurons play a role in the control of the axial musculature during threat display.

Key words

Periaqueductal gray Tracing Spinal cord Axial muscles Defense behavior Cat 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leonora J. Mouton
    • 1
  • Gert Holstege
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Anatomy and Embryology, Faculty of MedicineRijksuniversiteit GroningenEZ GroningenThe Netherlands

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