Spinothalamic tracts

Last revised by Craig Hacking on 8 Sep 2020

The spinothalamic tracts are ascending pathways in the spinal cord primarily concerned with sensory function. They are responsible for transmitting pain, temperature, coarse (non-discriminative) touch and pressure sensations 1.

Unlike other tracts main spinal tracts, the spinothalamic tracts decussate in the spinal cord itself and account for the pattern of deficit encountered in cord hemisection (Brown-Sequard syndrome). 

First-order neurons, whose cell bodies are in the dorsal root ganglion, and whose axons extend from peripheral receptors, synapse with second-order neurons located in the ipsilateral dorsal horn of the cord. These second-order neurons cross to the contralateral side of the cord in the anterior spinal commissure and form the spinothalamic tracts 2

The spinothalamic tract is divided into lateral and anterior tracts, which are discussed separately 1:

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: spinal cord tracts
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  • Figure 2: spinal cord cross section (Gray's illustration)
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  • Figure 3: ascending spinal tracts (Gray's illustration)
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