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Keywords:

  • brainstem reticular formation;
  • pain;
  • ventromedial thalamus

Abstract

Neurons within the medullary subnucleus reticularis dorsalis (SRD) of the rat convey selectively nociceptive information from all parts of the body. We have sought to define the neuronal networks that convey information from widespread noxious stimuli to the diffuse thalamocortical system and also modulate spinal outflow. The experiments, which were performed in rats, were designed to determine whether efferents from the SRD issue collaterals to the thalamus and spinal cord. Injections of the tracers fluorogold and tetramethylrhodamine-labelled dextran were centred stereotaxically in two areas that receive dense projections from the SRD: the cervical spinal cord and the lateral ventromedial thalamus (VMl), respectively. In other experimental series, SRD neurons were characterized electrophysiologically and individually labelled in a Golgi-like manner following juxtacellular iontophoresis of biotin–dextran. More than half reticulothalamic neurons within the SRD provided monosynaptic connections to the spinal cord. SRD neurons that responded to Aδ- or Aδ- and C-fibre activation from any area of the body had axons that gave both ascending and descending collaterals. Because the SRD innervates several areas involved in motor processing and receives strong, direct influences from several cortical regions, it could provide a structural basis for the processing of nociceptive and motor activities.