Posterior column-medial lemniscus pathway
|Posterior column-medial lemniscus pathway|
|The formation of the spinal nerve from the dorsal and ventral roots.|
|Originating in peripheral sensory receptors, the posterior column-medial lemniscus pathway transmits fine touch and conscious proprioceptive information to the brain.|
|Precursor||Neural tube and crest|
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The name comes from the two structures that the sensation travels up: the posterior (or dorsal) columns of the spinal cord, and the medial lemniscus in the brainstem. Because the posterior columns are also called dorsal columns, the pathway is often called the dorsal column-medial lemniscus system, or DCML for short. (Also called posterior column-medial lemniscus or PCML pathway).
This fine sensation is detected by Meissner's corpuscles that lie in the dermis of the skin close to the epidermis. When these structures are stimulated by slight pressure, an action potential is started. Alternatively, proprioceptive muscle spindles and other skin surface touch receptors such as merkel cells, Ruffini endings, Pacinian corpuscles, and hair follicle receptors may involve the first neuron in this pathway
The action potential travels up an axon (the cell body of the neuron will be in a dorsal root ganglion). (The neurons are classified as pseudo-unipolar, so they are regarded as having just one long process, which includes both a peripheral branch dendrite and central branch axon.) So the sensation travels from the skin, along the axon, past the neuronal cell body, and into the dorsal column of the spinal cord.
The axons continue inside the spinal cord, running up the posterior (dorsal) column. Axons from the lower body are most medial (closer to the midline), and run in the gracile tract of the spinal column. Sensory axons from the upper body enter the spinal cord later, so are more lateral and travel up the cuneate tract.
At the medulla, the medial lemniscus is orientated perpendicular to the way the fibres travelled in the posterior columns. For example, in the columns, lower limb is medial, upper limb is more lateral. At the medial leminiscus, axons from the leg are more ventral, arm fibres more dorsal. Fibres from the trigeminal nerve (supplying the head) come in dorsal to the arm fibres, and travel up the lemniscus too.
The medial lemniscus rotates 90 degrees at the pons. The secondary axons from neurons giving sensation to the head, stay at around the same place, while the leg axons move outwards.
Neurons starting in the thalamus travel up the posterior limb of the internal capsule, and again head and leg swap relative positions. The axons synapse in the primary sensory cortex, with lower body sensation most medial (e.g., the paracentral lobule) and upper body more lateral.
- Essentials of Human Physiology by Thomas M. Nosek. Section 8/8ch5/s8ch5_22.