Anterior spinothalamic tract

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.

Gross anatomy

Peripheral connections

First-order neurones, whose cell bodies are in the dorsal root ganglion and whose axons extend from peripheral receptors, enter the cord via dorsal nerve roots. 

Central course 

The aforementioned first-order neurones synapse with second-order neurones whose bodies are located in the ipsilateral dorsal horn of the cord. In contrast to the lateral spinothalamic tract, whose fibres decussate almost immediately, these second-order neurones' axons ascend a few levels before crossing via the anterior spinal commissure and form the anterior spinothalamic tract 1-4.

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.

Related pathology

Anatomy: Spine
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Article information

rID: 49154
Section: Anatomy
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Anterior spinothalamic tracts
  • Ventral spinothalamic fasciculus

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Cases and figures

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    Figure 1: spinal cord tracts
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    Spinal tracts. Im...
    Figure 2: spinal cord and tracts
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