Responses of neurons in the region of human thalamic principal somatic sensory nucleus to mechanical and thermal stimuli graded into the painful range

J. I. Lee, P. M. Dougherty, D. Antezana, Frederick Lenz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The role of the region of the principal somatic sensory nucleus of the human thalamus (ventral caudal - Vc) in signaling painful sensations is unclear. We have now studied the response of cells (n = 57) in this region to both thermal and mechanical stimuli graded into the painful range during surgeries (n = 24) for treatment of movement disorders. Fifteen cells had a graded response to mechanical stimuli extending into the painful range and, thus, were classified in the wide dynamic range (WDR) category. The mean stimulus-response function of cells in the WDR class, normalized to baseline, showed a fourfold mean increase in firing rate above baseline across the mechanical series of stimuli. Seven of these cells responded to heat stimuli (WDR-H) and two responded to cold stimuli (WDR-C). Twenty-five cells were in a class (multiple receptive - MR) that showed a response to both brush and compressive stimuli, although the responses were not graded into the painful range. Three of these cells (MR-H) had a response to heat stimuli and five cells responded to cold stimuli (MR-C). Nine cells responded to brushing without a response to the compressive stimuli (low threshold - LT). Cells responsive to painful mechanical and thermal stimuli were located throughout the thalamic region where cells responded to nonpainful cutaneous stimulation. These results show that cells in the region of the human thalamic principal somatic sensory nucleus respond to mechanical and thermal stimuli extending into the painful range.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)541-555
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 9 1999



  • Human thalamus
  • Mechanoreception
  • Pain
  • Posterior nucleus
  • Thermoreception
  • Ventral posterior nucleus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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