The role of the dorsal columns in neuropathic behavior: Evidence for plasticity and non-specificity

N. E. Saadé*, M. Baliki, C. El-Khoury, N. Hawwa, S. F. Atweh, A. V. Apkarian, S. J. Jabbur

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Despite conflicting clinical and experimental evidence, textbook description of somatic sensations continues to follow a rigid dichotomy based on the concept that pain sensation is transmitted cephalad primarily through anterolateral pathways, while touch is mediated through the dorsal column pathway. This study provides an example of the dynamic rerouting in the transmission of the nociceptive signals following injuries to the peripheral and central processes of sensory neurons. In two rat models for mononeuropathy, the chronic constriction injury model [Bennett, G.J., Xie, Y.K., Pain 33 (1988) 87-107] and the spared nerve injury model [Decosterd, I., Woolf, C.J., Pain 87 (2000) 149-158], we demonstrate that selective dorsal columns lesion produced significant decrease of tactile and cold allodynias and thermal hyperalgesia which were assessed by the Von Frey hair filaments, the acetone drop test and the heat-induced paw withdrawal, respectively. These manifestations, however, can reappear 2 weeks after bilateral dorsal column lesion in rats subjected to spared nerve injury mononeuropathy and appear also in animals sustaining chronic bilateral dorsal column lesion followed by either model of mononeuropathy. Lesion of the dorsal column on the side opposite to the neuropathic leg did not alter the neuropathic manifestations in both animal models. Changes in the sequence of timing of the dorsal column lesion and induction of mononeuropathy, suggest that the effects of the former last for 1 to 2 weeks. The results of this study show that the dorsal columns are involved in neuropathic manifestations and at the same time are not necessary for their full development and persistence. Furthermore, these results shade doubts on the validity of the concept of segregation of pathways involved in the transmission of neuropathic manifestations. Therefore, principles governing acute pain transmission are not necessarily applicable to chronic pain situations. The latter conditions seem to engage other available pathways to reestablish the pain signaling system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-413
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 20 2002


  • Allodynia
  • Chordotomy
  • Chronic pain
  • Neuropathy
  • Spinal tract

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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