Dorsal horn

Last revised by Craig Hacking on 8 Mar 2018

The dorsal horn of the spinal cord is one of the grey longitudinal columns found within the spinal cord. It primarily acts as the termination of primary afferent fibers via the dorsal roots of the spinal nerves.

Gross Anatomy

On transverse section of the spinal cord the spinal grey matter is described as being 'butterfly-shaped' or in an arrangement of the letter 'H'. The dorsal horns are bilateral structures which form the posterior projection of this shape. A thin fasciulus or tract (of Lissauer) separates the tip of the dorsal horn from the dorso-lateral surface of the spinal cord.

The dorsal horn consists of six neuronal cell layers (laminae) which receive various sensory fibers

  • I: marginal zone
  • II: substantia gelatinosa
  • III + IV: nucleus proprius
  • V: neck of the dorsal horn
  • VI: base of the dorsal horn

Clarke's column is present at the base of the dorsal horn in close proximity to the dorsal white funiculus. 


Laminae I-IV primarily receive main cutaneous receptive fibers while lamina V receives fine afferents from the skin, muscles and viscera. Lamina VI receives proprioceptive fibers and contributes to the pathway for the deep tendon reflex.

ADVERTISEMENT: Supporters see fewer/no ads

Updating… Please wait.

 Unable to process the form. Check for errors and try again.

 Thank you for updating your details.