The anterior spinothalamic tract, also known as the ventral spinothalamic fasciculus, is an ascending pathway located anteriorly within the spinal cord, primarily responsible for transmitting coarse touch and pressure.
The lateral spinothalamic tract (discussed separately), in contrast, primarily transmits pain and temperature.
First-order neurones from peripheral receptors enter the spinal cord via the posterior roots. Axon terminals of these neurones synapse with second-order neurones whose cell bodies are located in the posterior grey horn of the cord. These second-order neurones that are considered the spinothalamic tract.
Different to the lateral spinothalamic tract, the second-order axons of the anterior spinothalamic tract decussate after ascending a few segments. The anterior spinothalamic tract lies in the anterior funiculus, medial to where the ventral spinal roots exit. It overlaps the vestibulospinal tract. Fibres of this tract are somatotopically organised for their entire course.
At the lower brainstem, the anterior tract joins the medial lemniscus. The neurones of the spinothalamic tract terminate in the ventral posterior nucleus of the thalamus after ascent. Here, they synapse with third-order neurones. These neurones project to the primary somatosensory area on the ipsilateral side of the cerebral cortex.
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