Lateral spinothalamic tract

The spinothalamic tracts are ascending pathways primarily concerned with sensory function. They are responsible for transmitting pain, temperature, coarse (non-discriminative) touch and pressure sensations. The spinothalamic tracts can be separated into lateral and anterior tracts.

The lateral spinothalamic tract has some structural differences to its anterior counterpart and is responsible for pain and temperature.

Gross anatomy

Peripheral connections

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 form the spinothalamic tract.


Different to the anterior spinothalamic tract, after ipsilateral synapse with the first-order neurones, lateral spinothalamic fibres decussate almost immediately. The lateral spinothalamic tract travels in the lateral funiculus, just medial to the ventral spinocerebellar tract. Fibres of this tract are somatotopically organised for their entire course.

Upon reaching the brainstem, these fibres continue as the medial lemniscus. The neurones of the lateral spinothalamic tract terminate in the ventral posterior nucleus of the thalamus. Here, they synapse with third-order neurones. It is these neurones that project to the primary somatosensory area on the ipsilateral side of the cerebral cortex.

Related pathology

Spinal anatomy
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Article Information

rID: 49153
Section: Anatomy
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:

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