Neural responses in the nucleus of the lateral descending tract of the trigeminal nerve (LTTD) of the rattlesnake Crotalus viridis were recorded. Neurons in the LTTD respond phasically to infrared stimulation of the pit organ, in contrast to the tonic responses that have been reported for the primary afferents. The receptive field dimensions of LTTD neurons are smaller than those of the primary afferents; some LTTD neurons have inhibitory regions within their receptive fields. The smaller receptive fields of neurons in the LTTD, as well as the phasic responses of these cells, might be a result of this inhibition. This is an instance of spatial sharpening and possibly enhancement of responses to time-changing stimuli due to excitatory and inhibitory neural interactions in a primary trigeminal nucleus.