By using anterograde transport of biotin dextran amine injected into the cervical spinal dorsal horn, we have shown that fibres from superficial and deep dorsal horn project to the nucleus tractus solitarii via two distinct pathways. Afferent fibres from the superficial lamina (I-III) were found to course in the dorsal funiculus and terminate bilaterally in the caudal zone of the nucleus tractus solitarii (NTS), mainly within the commissural subnucleus. In contrast, afferents from the deeper dorsal horn laminae (IV-V) were found to course in the dorsolateral fasciculus and terminate ipsilaterally, mostly in the lateral areas of the caudal nucleus tractus solitarii. Similar, but more extensive patterns of labelled fibres were produced by injections into the white matter of the dorsal funiculus and dorsolateral fasciculus, respectively. These observations suggest that the caudal NTS not only serves as a location of visceral afferent convergence and integration, but may also be a receptive area for monosynaptic projections from dorsal horn neurons receiving sensory afferent inputs. Such projections may represent pathways through which NTS neurons are influenced by nociceptive and non-nociceptive information from the dorsal horn and thereby can co-ordinate the appropriate autonomic response, including adjustments in cardiorespiratory reflex output.
- Anterograde transport
- Biotin dextran amine
- Medulla oblongata
- Nucleus of the solitary tract
- Spinal cord