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Ascending & Descending tracts of spinal cord

General overview

Ascending tracts

Sensory

Descending tracts

Motor
General arrangement of both tracts

1st order neuron

2nd order neuron

3rd order neuron


The only difference is the different locations where each order of neuron ends.
Decussation is the cross-over of the tract from one side to the other. Therefore, there are
instances where the left side of the body is controlled by the right brain hemisphere.
Decussation occurs at different locations for each tracts.
General arrangement of descending tracts

1st order neuron

First-order neurons conduct impulses from receptors of the skin and from

proprioceptors (receptors located in a join, muscle or tendon) to the spinal cord


or brain stem, where they synapse with second-order neurons. First-order
neurons cell bodes reside in ganglion (dorsal root or cranial).
starts at the cerebral cortex in the somatomotor area
2nd order neuron
2nd neuron to carry an order. The order could be a sensory stimulus or a

motor stimulus.
axon of the 1st order neuron will synapse with the 2nd order neuron at the

level of the brain stem, which commonly decussate (crosses over) to the opposite
side.
3rd order neuron
The 3rd order neuron is located in the ventral horn of the spinal cord,

which will exit with the spinal nerve to supply the muscle.
Types of descending tracts:

Lateral corticospinal tract

Anterior corticospinal tract

Therefore, the descending tract is also known as corticospinal tract.

Corticospinal tract arise from


long axons of the pyramidal cells (extrapyramidal layer) of the precentral
gyrus (primary motor centre of the cerebral cortex)

lies in front of the central sulcus


Homunculus arrangement

arranged upside down

the finer the movement, the more the cortical representation

fingers, face, tongue more

trunk, lower limbs less


medial surface: lower limbs
superolateral surface: everything else

1) 1st order neuron

Fibres of the 1st order neuron arise from the precentral gyrus

These fibres converge and enter a small area

internal capsule

like a bunch of flowers with a ribbon tied around it

ALL the fibers (from ascending & descending tracts) converge here

Function: separates the caudate nucleus and the thalamus from


the lenticular nucleus

Ques: location of internal capsule

bounded medially by the thalamus and caudate


nucleus

bounded laterally by the lenticular nucleus


Parts of internal capsule (not homunculus arrangement, normal

head to toe)

anterior limb

head & neck fibres most anterior

posterior limb

lower limb fibres most posterior

The descending fibres passes through the

LATERAL half of the posterior limb of internal capsule


After the internal capsule, the fibres enter the brain stem
midbrain
pons

medulla

2) 2nd order neuron

Fibres of the 1st order neuron ends when it enters the brain stem and synapse

with the 2nd order neuron


The fibres pass through the brainstem

1st through the (mid 5th) crus cerebri of midbrain

2nd through the anterior part of the pons

3rd in the medulla oblongata

80-85% of the fibres cross to the opposite side

Motor decussation

uncrossed fibres
Enters the spinal cord

3) 3rd order neuron

2nd order neuron fibres in the medulla oblongata enters the spinal cord and
synapse with the 3rd order neuron

Motor decussation

in the spinal tract, the crossed tract descend as the lateral

corticospinal tract
Therefore, the motor cortex of the cerebral hemisphere controls the

opposite side of the body (L R, R L)

contra-lateral side

In upper motor neuron lesions:

above the motor decussation (above medulla)

opposite side of body affected

below the motor decussation

same side of body affected

ipsilateral side
Uncrossed fibres
in the spinal tract, the uncrossed tract descent as the anterior

corticospinal tract

its fibres cross at spinal level?

Ascending tracts (sensory)


Types of ascending tracts:

Spinothalamic tracts

Lateral

pain & temperature


Anterior

light touch & pressure


Dorsal column tract
deep touch & pressure
proprioception
vibration sensation
Spinocerrebellar tract
posture & coordination

1st order neuron:

Arise from sensory receptors of the body

The fibres enter the white mater and ends at the substantia gelatinosa

tip of posterior gray horn


2nd order neuron:

The fibres of 1st order neuron synapse with the 2nd order neuron at the

substantia gelatinosa
These fibres then cross to the opposite side

Pain & temperature fibres

enters the lateral spinothalamic tract

Light touch & pressure fibres

enters the anterior spinothalamic tract


These tracts ascends to brainstem

to medulla oblongata, pons and midbrain

tracts flattened in the brainstem

spinal lemniscus
Reaches the ventral posterolateral nucleus of the thalamus

ends here

3rd order neuron:

The 3rd order neurons arise from the thalamus and pass through the internal
capsule

thalamocortical fibres pass through the medial part of the posterior limb

of the internal capsule


Enters the postcentral gyrus

sensory cortex of the cerebrum


behind the central sulcus
Same homunculus arrangement
more sensitive areas in the body have a greater representation

dorsal column tracts:

1st order neuron:

Arise from the sensory receptors of the body

Fibres enter the dorsal column of the SAME side (post column of spinal cord)

ascends to the medulla oblongata


(does not synapse and end here like spinothalamic tract)
Enters medulla oblongata
ends in the gracile and cuneate nucleus

2nd order neuron:

Starts at the gracile & cuneate nucleus of the medulla oblongata

These fibres crosses to the opposite side of the medulla oblongata

Ascends through the brain stem

as flattened bundle

medial lemniscus

Ends in the ventral posterolateral nucleus of the thalamus

3rd order of nucleus:

Arise from the thalamus

Pass through the internal capsule

medial aspect of the posterior limb of internal capsule

Reaches the postcentral gyrus

ends here

Spinocerebellar tract:

1st order neurons:

Arise from the sensory receptors of the body

Enters the spinal cord


Ends in the Clarkes Column of the posterior grey horn
synapse

2nd order neurons:

Arise from the Clarkes Column

synapse with 1st order neurons

Ascends in the spinocerebellar tracts

Enters the cerebellum

through the interior and superior cerebellar peduncles

the only tract that enters the cerebellum


Actual decussation of these tracts:

These tracts decussate 2 times


therefore cerebellum controls same side of body
ipsilateral

eg. right spinocerebellar tract controls the right side

vice versa

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Clinical anatomy:

Lesion of one half of the spinal cord may lead to

Opposite side of body

loss of pain, temperature, light touch, pressure sensations


Same side of body

loss of the other sensations


Sensory cortex of the cerebral hemisphere controls the opposite side of the body
contralateral
Lesion above the sensory decussation
all the sensations of the OPPOSITE side of the body are lost
Lesion below the sensory decussation
sensations of the SAME side of the body are lost
Cortical lesions
affected areas are usually limited

paralysis/parasthesia is localized
Internal capsule lesions
all ascending & descending tracts are affected
hemiplegia/hemiparasthesia