The lateral spinothalamic tract, also known as the lateral spinothalamic fasciculus, is an ascending pathway located anterolaterally within the peripheral white matter of the spinal cord. It is primarily responsible for transmitting pain and temperature as well as coarse touch.
The anterior spinothalamic tract (discussed separately), in contrast, primarily transmits coarse touch and pressure.
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.
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