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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Spinal cord projection neurons: a superficial, and also deep, analysis.

  • Author(s): Wercberger, Racheli
  • Basbaum, Allan I
  • et al.

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Today there are extensive maps of the molecular heterogeneity of primary afferents and dorsal horn interneurons, yet there is a dearth of molecular and functional information regarding the projection neurons that transmit pain and itch information to the brain. Additionally, most contemporary research into the spinal cord and medullary projection neurons focuses on neurons in the superficial dorsal horn; the contribution of deep dorsal horn and even ventral horn projection neurons to pain and itch processing is often overlooked. In the present review we integrate conclusions from classical as well as contemporary studies and provide a more balanced view of the diversity of projection neurons. A major question addressed is the extent to which labeled-lines are maintained in these different populations or whether the brain generates distinct pain and itch percepts by decoding complex convergent inputs that engage projection neurons.

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