spinothalamic tracts


Summary: A bundle of NERVE FIBERS connecting each posterior horn of the spinal cord to the opposite side of the THALAMUS, carrying information about pain, temperature, and touch. It is one of two major routes by which afferent spinal NERVE FIBERS carrying sensations of somaesthesis are transmitted to the THALAMUS.

Top Publications

  1. Al Khater K, Kerr R, Todd A. A quantitative study of spinothalamic neurons in laminae I, III, and IV in lumbar and cervical segments of the rat spinal cord. J Comp Neurol. 2008;511:1-18 pubmed publisher
    ..Because PoT projects to second somatosensory and insular cortices, our results suggest that these are major targets for information conveyed by both these populations of spinothalamic neurons. ..
  2. Mouton L, Holstege G. Three times as many lamina I neurons project to the periaqueductal gray than to the thalamus: a retrograde tracing study in the cat. Neurosci Lett. 1998;255:107-10 pubmed
    ..Considering this, one can conclude that the spino-PAG system is a virtually neglected area in pain research. ..
  3. Klop E, Mouton L, Hulsebosch R, Boers J, Holstege G. In cat four times as many lamina I neurons project to the parabrachial nuclei and twice as many to the periaqueductal gray as to the thalamus. Neuroscience. 2005;134:189-97 pubmed
    ..In all cases, most labeled lamina I cells were found in the upper two cervical segments and in the cervical and lumbar enlargements. ..
  4. Zhang X, Giesler G. Response characterstics of spinothalamic tract neurons that project to the posterior thalamus in rats. J Neurophysiol. 2005;93:2552-64 pubmed
    ..We discuss the evidence that this projection provides nociceptive information that plays an important role in fear conditioning. ..
  5. Gauriau C, Bernard J. A comparative reappraisal of projections from the superficial laminae of the dorsal horn in the rat: the forebrain. J Comp Neurol. 2004;468:24-56 pubmed
    ..The deep laminae project densely to the CL and more diffusely to other forebrain targets, suggesting roles in motor and alertness components of pain. ..
  6. Klop E, Mouton L, Holstege G. Segmental and laminar organization of the spinothalamic neurons in cat: evidence for at least five separate clusters. J Comp Neurol. 2005;493:580-95 pubmed
    ..The location of the spinothalamic neurons shows remarkable similarities, but also differences, with the location of spino-periaqueductal gray neurons. ..
  7. Yu X, Ribeiro Da Silva A, De Koninck Y. Morphology and neurokinin 1 receptor expression of spinothalamic lamina I neurons in the rat spinal cord. J Comp Neurol. 2005;491:56-68 pubmed
    ..As in the monkey, most pyramidal STT neurons did not express NK-1r. These results provide further evidence that distinct morphological types of neurons differ in phenotype but not in their projection pattern. ..
  8. Klop E, Mouton L, Holstege G. How many spinothalamic tract cells are there? A retrograde tracing study in cat. Neurosci Lett. 2004;360:121-4 pubmed
    ..After applying the correction factor of Abercrombie (Anat. Rec. 94 (1946) 239), it appears that a total of 12,000 cells in the spinal cord project to the thalamus. ..
  9. Chen S, Pan H. Hypersensitivity of spinothalamic tract neurons associated with diabetic neuropathic pain in rats. J Neurophysiol. 2002;87:2726-33 pubmed
    ..Furthermore, the attenuated inhibitory effects of morphine on evoked responses of STT neurons in diabetes likely accounts for its reduced analgesic efficacy in this clinical form of neuropathic pain. ..

More Information


  1. Hunt S, Mantyh P. The molecular dynamics of pain control. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2001;2:83-91 pubmed
    ..These new insights into pain processing will significantly alter our approach to pain control and the development of new analgesics. ..
  2. Craig A. Distribution of trigeminothalamic and spinothalamic lamina I terminations in the cat. Somatosens Mot Res. 2003;20:209-22 pubmed
    ..The novel identification of spinal lamina I input to the lateral habenula could be significant for homeostatic behaviors. ..
  3. Jang S, Kwon H. Anatomical location of the medial lemniscus and spinothalamic tract at the pons in the human brain: a diffusion tensor tractography study. Somatosens Mot Res. 2013;30:206-9 pubmed publisher
    ..According to findings, MLs were located around the middle to medial one-third, between midline and lateral boundary of pons in the pontine tegmentum and STTs were located posterolaterally to ML. ..
  4. Nathan P, Smith M, Deacon P. The crossing of the spinothalamic tract. Brain. 2001;124:793-803 pubmed
    ..There were three of 63 cordotomies for which this explanation of the partial sensory loss could not be maintained. Although no explanation has been suggested, this is unlikely to be due to the fibres crossing the cord diagonally. ..
  5. Wydenkeller S, Maurizio S, Dietz V, Halder P. Neuropathic pain in spinal cord injury: significance of clinical and electrophysiological measures. Eur J Neurosci. 2009;30:91-9 pubmed publisher
    ..These findings could be helpful for both the development of an objective diagnosis of bNP and for testing the effectiveness of new therapeutic agents. ..
  6. Simone D, Zhang X, Li J, Zhang J, Honda C, LaMotte R, et al. Comparison of responses of primate spinothalamic tract neurons to pruritic and algogenic stimuli. J Neurophysiol. 2004;91:213-22 pubmed
    ..We conclude that the STT neurons in our sample are more likely to contribute to pain, allodynia, and hyperalgesia than to itch and alloknesis. ..
  7. Craig A. Can the basis for central neuropathic pain be identified by using a thermal grill?. Pain. 2008;135:215-6 pubmed publisher
  8. Hong J, Kwon H, Jang S. Probabilistic somatotopy of the spinothalamic pathway at the ventroposterolateral nucleus of the thalamus in the human brain. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2011;32:1358-62 pubmed publisher
    ..05); however, no difference was observed in the mediolateral direction (P > .05). We found the somatotopic locations for hand and leg of the STP at the VPL nucleus; these somatotopies were arranged in the anteroposterior direction. ..
  9. Craig A, Dostrovsky J. Differential projections of thermoreceptive and nociceptive lamina I trigeminothalamic and spinothalamic neurons in the cat. J Neurophysiol. 2001;86:856-70 pubmed
  10. Palecek J, Paleckova V, Willis W. Fos expression in spinothalamic and postsynaptic dorsal column neurons following noxious visceral and cutaneous stimuli. Pain. 2003;104:249-57 pubmed
    ..8+/-1.1% SEM). These results show that both PSDC and STT neurons are activated by cutaneous and visceral noxious stimuli. Their particular role in transmission and modulation of painful stimuli needs to be investigated further. ..
  11. Sotgiu M, Valente M, Storchi R, Caramenti G, Mario Biella G. Contribution by DRt descending facilitatory pathways to maintenance of spinal neuron sensitization in rats. Brain Res. 2008;1188:69-75 pubmed
  12. Davidson S, Zhang X, Khasabov S, Moser H, Honda C, Simone D, et al. Pruriceptive spinothalamic tract neurons: physiological properties and projection targets in the primate. J Neurophysiol. 2012;108:1711-23 pubmed publisher
    ..The results show that pruriceptive information is encoded by polymodal STT neurons in histaminergic or nonhistaminergic pathways and transmitted to the ventrobasal complex and posterior thalamus in primates. ..
  13. Son B, Lee S, Choi E, Sung J, Hong J. Motor cortex stimulation for central pain following a traumatic brain injury. Pain. 2006;123:210-6 pubmed
    ..As shown in this patient, the occurrence of central pain syndrome should be considered by physicians caring for TBI patients, and a comprehensive, systematic study will be needed to determine the prevalence of central pain after a TBI. ..
  14. Schwender Groen L, Worm M, Klinger R. [Comparative psychological aspects of itching and pain]. Schmerz. 2011;25:207-18; quiz 219-20 pubmed publisher
    ..This article will focus on chronic itching and pain with particular consideration of psychological factors. ..
  15. Motomura K, Kosaka T. Medioventral part of the posterior thalamus in the mouse. J Chem Neuroanat. 2011;42:192-209 pubmed publisher
    ..These findings indicate that the PoMV can be regarded as a distinct structure within the Po, and it may play a role in the emotional aspect of somatosensory processing. ..
  16. Albutaihi I, Hautvast R, Dejongste M, Ter Horst G, Staal M. Cardiac nociception in rats: neuronal pathways and the influence of dermal neurostimulation on conveyance to the central nervous system. J Mol Neurosci. 2003;20:43-52 pubmed
    ..Furthermore, capsaicin-induced cardiac pain and neurostimulation may utilize two different pathways. ..
  17. Liu L, Tsuruoka M, Maeda M, Hayashi B, Inoue T. Coeruleospinal inhibition of visceral nociceptive processing in the rat spinal cord. Neurosci Lett. 2007;426:139-44 pubmed
    ..The present study, therefore, suggests that the descending LC/SC system can inhibit visceral nociceptive signals ascending through the STT and the DC pathways. ..
  18. Leo R, Latif T. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) in experimentally induced and chronic neuropathic pain: a review. J Pain. 2007;8:453-9 pubmed
    ..of rTMS on cortical, and, indirectly, subcortical, neurons may reduce pain transmission ascending from spinothalamic tracts, thereby mitigating pain...
  19. Sugaya K, Ogawa Y, Hatano T, Koyama Y, Miyazato T, Oda M. Effect of injury to the dorsal funiculus of the thoracic spinal cord on micturition in decerebrate and freely-moving cats. Urol Int. 1999;63:179-84 pubmed
    ..The dorsal system may play a major role in the transmission of bladder sensation to the cerebral cortex, but may not be essential. ..
  20. Chandler M, Zhang J, Foreman R. Phrenic nerve inputs to upper cervical (C1-C3) spinothalamic tract neurons in monkeys. Brain Res. 1998;798:93-100 pubmed
  21. Beggs J, Jordan S, Ericson A, Blomqvist A, Craig A. Synaptology of trigemino- and spinothalamic lamina I terminations in the posterior ventral medial nucleus of the macaque. J Comp Neurol. 2003;459:334-54 pubmed
  22. Andrew D, Craig A. Spinothalamic lamina I neurones selectively responsive to cutaneous warming in cats. J Physiol. 2001;537:489-95 pubmed
    ..Additionally, a role in thermoregulation, a defining feature of mammalian homeostasis, is suggested. ..
  23. Kraco K. A ticklish subject. Minn Med. 2004;87:10 pubmed
  24. Zou X, Lin Q, Willis W. Role of protein kinase A in phosphorylation of NMDA receptor 1 subunits in dorsal horn and spinothalamic tract neurons after intradermal injection of capsaicin in rats. Neuroscience. 2002;115:775-86 pubmed
    ..However, the phosphorylation of deep STT cells involves both PKA and PKC. ..
  25. Dubois J, Dehaene Lambertz G, Perrin M, Mangin J, Cointepas Y, Duchesnay E, et al. Asynchrony of the early maturation of white matter bundles in healthy infants: quantitative landmarks revealed noninvasively by diffusion tensor imaging. Hum Brain Mapp. 2008;29:14-27 pubmed
    ..Thus, this approach provides new quantitative landmarks for further noninvasive research on brain-behavior relationships during normal and abnormal development. ..
  26. Slack S, Grist J, Mac Q, McMahon S, Pezet S. TrkB expression and phospho-ERK activation by brain-derived neurotrophic factor in rat spinothalamic tract neurons. J Comp Neurol. 2005;489:59-68 pubmed
    ..These data suggest an important role for BDNF in nociception as an activator of spinothalamic projection neurons. ..
  27. Andrew D, Craig A. Quantitative responses of spinothalamic lamina I neurones to graded mechanical stimulation in the cat. J Physiol. 2002;545:913-31 pubmed
  28. Gildenberg P. Myelotomy through the years. Stereotact Funct Neurosurg. 2001;77:169-71 pubmed
    ..It must be recognized that all of these procedures have involved interruption of the same pathway, even before it was defined anatomically, and all authors provided similar observations about relief of particularly visceral pain. ..
  29. Ralston H. Pain, the brain, and the (calbindin) stain. J Comp Neurol. 2003;459:329-33 pubmed
  30. Seghier M, Lazeyras F, Vuilleumier P, Schnider A, Carota A. Functional magnetic resonance imaging and diffusion tensor imaging in a case of central poststroke pain. J Pain. 2005;6:208-12 pubmed
    ..Our investigations show, for CPSP pathogenesis, the role of damage of lateral nociceptive thalamoparietal fibers together with the release of activity of anterior cingulate and posterior parietal regions. ..
  31. Barbas H, Zikopoulos B. The prefrontal cortex and flexible behavior. Neuroscientist. 2007;13:532-45 pubmed
    ..Circuit-based models suggest that prefrontal pathways can select relevant signals and efficiently suppress distractors, in processes that are disrupted in schizophrenia and in other disorders affecting prefrontal cortices. ..
  32. Yague J, Foffani G, Aguilar J. Cortical hyperexcitability in response to preserved spinothalamic inputs immediately after spinal cord hemisection. Exp Neurol. 2011;227:252-63 pubmed publisher
    ..This immediate cortical hyperexcitability could be important to understand the long-term development of cortical reorganization and neuropathic pain after incomplete spinal cord lesions. ..
  33. Gilbert G. Unilateral shivering: a result of lateral medullary infarction. South Med J. 2007;100:540-1 pubmed
    ..The physiology and anatomy of shivering and the reticulospinal tract is reviewed. ..
  34. Rabchevsky A, Sullivan P, Scheff S. Temporal-spatial dynamics in oligodendrocyte and glial progenitor cell numbers throughout ventrolateral white matter following contusion spinal cord injury. Glia. 2007;55:831-43 pubmed
  35. Bohotin C, Scholsem M, Bohotin V, Franzen R, Schoenen J. Vagus nerve stimulation attenuates heat- and formalin-induced pain in rats. Neurosci Lett. 2003;351:79-82 pubmed
    ..VNS may thus be useful in pain disorders, even with the less stringent protocol. ..
  36. Spiegel J, Hansen C, Baumgartner U, Hopf H, Treede R. Sensitivity of laser-evoked potentials versus somatosensory evoked potentials in patients with multiple sclerosis. Clin Neurophysiol. 2003;114:992-1002 pubmed
    ..LEPs also detected subclinical lesions. Combined assessment of LEPs and SEPs can help to document dissemination of demyelinating CNS lesions and thus contribute to the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. ..
  37. Craig A, Zhang E, Blomqvist A. Association of spinothalamic lamina I neurons and their ascending axons with calbindin-immunoreactivity in monkey and human. Pain. 2002;97:105-15 pubmed
    ..These findings support the view that lamina I STT neurons are involved in spinal cordotomies that reduce pain, temperature and itch sensations. ..
  38. Raslan A. Percutaneous computed tomography-guided transdiscal low cervical cordotomy for cancer pain as a method to avoid sleep apnea. Stereotact Funct Neurosurg. 2005;83:159-64 pubmed
    ..Percutaneous CT-guided cordotomy remains a successful procedure to control pain in cancer patients, and is an affordable viable option under circumstances where economic disadvantage is an overriding determinate. ..
  39. Naseri K, Saghaei E, Abbaszadeh F, Afhami M, Haeri A, Rahimi F, et al. Role of microglia and astrocyte in central pain syndrome following electrolytic lesion at the spinothalamic tract in rats. J Mol Neurosci. 2013;49:470-9 pubmed publisher
    ..It appears that microglial activation is important in the early stages of pain development and astrocytic activation occurs later. These events may lead to behavioral outcomes especially central neuropathic pain. ..
  40. Kim H, Cui L, Kim J, Kim S. Transient receptor potential vanilloid type 1 receptor regulates glutamatergic synaptic inputs to the spinothalamic tract neurons of the spinal cord deep dorsal horn. Neuroscience. 2009;160:508-16 pubmed publisher
    ..These data suggest that activation of TRPV1 potentiates the glutamate release from excitatory terminals of primary afferent fibers and subsequently increases the neural activity of STT neurons of the rat spinal cord deep dorsal horn. ..
  41. de Leeuw R, Albuquerque R, Okeson J, Carlson C. The contribution of neuroimaging techniques to the understanding of supraspinal pain circuits: implications for orofacial pain. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod. 2005;100:308-14 pubmed
    ..The somatosensory cortices, anterior cingulate cortex, thalamus, and prefrontal cortex may play a vital role in the pathophysiology of chronic pain and should be the main focus of future neuroimaging studies in chronic pain patients. ..
  42. Perchet C, Frot M, Charmarty A, Flores C, Mazza S, Magnin M, et al. Do we activate specifically somatosensory thin fibres with the concentric planar electrode? A scalp and intracranial EEG study. Pain. 2012;153:1244-52 pubmed publisher
  43. Diaz E, Morales H. Spinal Cord Anatomy and Clinical Syndromes. Semin Ultrasound CT MR. 2016;37:360-71 pubmed publisher
    ..Peripherally, the main descending (corticospinal tract) and ascending (gracilis or cuneatus fasciculi and spinothalamic tracts) pathways compose the white matter. Centrally, the gray matter can be divided into multiple laminae...
  44. Hains B, Willis W, Hulsebosch C. Differential electrophysiological effects of brain-derived neurotrophic factor on dorsal horn neurons following chronic spinal cord hemisection injury in the rat. Neurosci Lett. 2002;320:125-8 pubmed
    ..Effects were bilateral and differences in sidedness were not observed. These results further implicate BDNF in nociceptive processing, but suggest a complex role after chronic SCI. ..
  45. Namjoshi D, McErlane S, Taepavarapruk N, Soja P. Network actions of pentobarbital in the rat mesopontine tegmentum on sensory inflow through the spinothalamic tract. J Neurophysiol. 2009;102:700-13 pubmed publisher
    ..This study provides a provenance for investigating electrophysiologically the actions on STT neurons of other current agents used clinically to maintain the state of general anesthesia. ..
  46. Finnerup N, Sørensen L, Biering Sørensen F, Johannesen I, Jensen T. Segmental hypersensitivity and spinothalamic function in spinal cord injury pain. Exp Neurol. 2007;207:139-49 pubmed
  47. Haque R, Winfree C. Spinal nerve root stimulation. Neurosurg Focus. 2006;21:E4 pubmed
  48. O Muircheartaigh J, Vollmar C, Traynor C, Barker G, Kumari V, Symms M, et al. Clustering probabilistic tractograms using independent component analysis applied to the thalamus. Neuroimage. 2011;54:2020-32 pubmed publisher
    ..We believe that the use of such a multivariate method to interpret the complex datasets created by probabilistic tractography may be better suited than other approaches to parcellating brain regions. ..
  49. Stepniewska I, Sakai S, Qi H, Kaas J. Somatosensory input to the ventrolateral thalamic region in the macaque monkey: potential substrate for parkinsonian tremor. J Comp Neurol. 2003;455:378-95 pubmed
    ..Thus, the overlapping spinothalamic and cerebellar inputs may provide a substrate for the altered activity of motor thalamic neurons in such patients. ..
  50. Lefaucheur J, Brusa A, Creange A, Drouot X, Jarry G. Clinical application of laser evoked potentials using the Nd:YAG laser. Neurophysiol Clin. 2002;32:91-8 pubmed
    ..LEPs following Nd:YAG laser stimulation are sensitive in the diagnosis of peripheral and/or central nervous system disorders and they give complementary information as compared to routine electrophysiological tests. ..
  51. Gotkine M, Haggiag S, Abramsky O, Biran I. Lack of hemispheric localizing value of the palmomental reflex. Neurology. 2005;64:1656 pubmed
  52. Burstein R, Falkowsky O, Borsook D, Strassman A. Distinct lateral and medial projections of the spinohypothalamic tract of the rat. J Comp Neurol. 1996;373:549-74 pubmed
    ..They also suggest a site that can be lesioned without affecting other ascending sensory spinal pathways. ..
  53. Bagley C, Ohara S, Lawson H, Lenz F. Psychophysics of CNS pain-related activity: binary and analog channels and memory encoding. Neuroscientist. 2006;12:29-42 pubmed
    ..Such stimulation can evoke both the sensory and emotional components of previously experienced pain. These results illustrate the diverse functions of human pain signaling pathways. ..