Projections of nucleus caudalis and spinal cord to rrainstem and diencephalon in the hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus and Paraechinus aethiopicus): A degeneration study

George Ring, Donald Ganchrow

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In the light of hypotheses related to the evolution of pain‐carrying systems in mammals, terminal projection fields in brainstem and diencephalon of efferents of nucleus caudalis (NC) of the spinal trigeminal complex and spinal cord were determined in hedgehog by using Nauta‐Gygax and Fink‐Heimer silver techniques for degeneration. Unilateral NC lesions resulted in medullary degeneration in the ventral portion of NC contral a ter ally and bilaterally in cuneate nucleus (CU) and reticular formation. Pontine degeneration was noted ipsilaterally in medial (PBM) and lateral (PBL) parabrachial, facial motor (VII), and interpolar, oral, and main sensory trigeminal nuclei; degeneration in reticular formation was bilateral. Midbrain degeneration was seen bilaterally in caudal superior colliculus (SO), inferior colliculus (IC), periaqueductal gray, and tegmentum. In thalamus, projections to ventroposterior nucleus (VP) were contralateral and concentrated in a crescent extending along the lateral one‐third‐to‐one‐halfand ventral border of the nucleus. Bilateral degeneration fields were noted in a dorsomedial sector of the “ventral nuclear field,” posterior complex (PO), and mediodorsal nucleus (MD), the degeneration always heavier contralaterally in these nuclei. Sparse degeneration was noted in the medialmost portions of the medial geniculate nuclei bordering PO and VP. In rostral diencephalon, bilateral degeneration was traced from the inferior thalamic peduncle to the lateral hypothalamic area (LH). Unilateral spinal cord lesions made between C7 and Tl vertebrae resulted in medullary degeneration in NC contralaterally, ipsilaterally in CU and lateral cuneate nucleus, and bilaterally in gracile nucleus, inferior olivary complex, and reticular formation. Pontine degeneration was limited to ipsilateral PBL and bilaterally to VII. Midbrain degeneration was found bilaterally in IC, SC, nucleus sagulum, and tegmentum; a minor projection was noted in interpeduncular nucleus. In thalamus, projections were confined to ipsilateral PO and zona incerta. In rostral diencephalon bilateral fields were noted in LH. NC terminations in PO and VP parallel results of research in hedgehogs on thalamic projections of the dorsal column nuclei (Jane and Schroeder, 1971), and particularly the location in VP of most cells responsive to stimulation of the face (Erickson et al., 1967). This suggests that somatic input from NC, some of which may be pain‐specific, reaches thalamic areas, a portion of whose neurons are characterized as polymodal and at least partially convergent for somatotopy. These results are consistent with the thesis that specific sensothalamic nuclei evolved from a diffuse sensory region. Response properties of neurons in the dorsomedial portion of the ventral nuclear field, an area which also received NC efferents, are not known. Last, NC projections to MD and LH implicate the role of “limbic” aspects of nociception.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-151
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 10 May 1983
Externally publishedYes


  • insectivore
  • nociception
  • pain
  • spinothalamic
  • trigeminal


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