It has been concluded recently that if a projection from the marginal zone to the ventral posterior lateral (VPL) nucleus exists, it is sparse. Given the importance of the marginal zone in nociception, this conclusion has raised doubts about the significance of the role of the ventrobasal complex in nociception. We have reexamined this projection using injections of the retrograde tracer, cholera toxin subunit B, into one side of the lateral thalamus in macaque monkeys. The injections were confined to the ventrobasal complex (with minimal spread to adjacent nuclei that do not receive spinal projections) in two animals. Many retrogradely labeled neurons were found in lamina I (as well as in lamina V) of the contralateral spinal and medullary dorsal horn. The results are consistent with the view that neurons in the marginal zone contribute prominently to the spinothalamic and trigeminothalamic projections to the VPL and ventral posterior medial (VPM) nuclei. This pathway is likely to be important for the sensory-discriminative processing of nociceptive information with respect to the location and intensity of painful stimuli.
- Spinal projection
- Ventral posterior lateral nucleus
- Ventral posterior medial nucleus