Nucleus gracilis: an integrator for visceral and somatic information. Academic Article uri icon


  • The nucleus gracilis (NG) receives an abundance of visceral input from various abdominal organs and is proposed to play an important role in visceral pain processing. The purpose of this study was to investigate the necessity of the NG for colorectal input into the ventral posterolateral (VPL) nucleus of the thalamus. Single-cell recordings were made from nine VPL cells isolated in nine different male Sprague Dawley rats anesthetized with pentobarbital sodium. Responses of the VPL cells to colorectal distension (CRD) and to cutaneous stimuli were obtained before and after lesioning of the NG. Electrolytic (n = 5) and chemical (n = 4) lesions of the NG were made in different preparations. The chemical lesions were made by injecting a solution of kainic acid into the NG. Kainic acid presumably kills neuronal cell bodies and spares axons of passage. The results indicate that a lesion of the NG, regardless of its type, reduces dramatically the responses of VPL neurons to innocuous cutaneous stimuli, and, to a lesser extent, the responses to CRD. Attenuation of VPL neuronal responses to CRD as well as to innocuous cutaneous stimuli by the NG lesions emphasizes the role of the dorsal column in visceral nociception and suggests that the NG is an integration center for visceral and cutaneous information flowing into the VPL nucleus.

publication date

  • July 1997