The raccoon spinocervical and spinothalamic tracts: a horseradish peroxidase study.
In the lateral cervical nucleus (LCN) of the cat, GABA-immunoreactive neurons and substance P-immunoreactive fibers are concentrated in the medial part of the nucleus, whereas in the monkey LCN no preferential locations have been identified. In raccoons, substance P-immunoreactive fibers display a distribution pattern similar to that in cats. However, the presence and distribution of GABA-immunoreactive neurons in the raccoon LCN has not been examined, and it is therefore not known whether raccoons are similar to cats or primates in this respect. Thus, in the present study, the raccoon LCN was examined for the presence and distribution of GABA-immunoreactive cells with respect to their numbers, locations, and sizes. The distribution of GABA-positive fibers and varicosities within the LCN was also investigated. The results of measurements of cross-sectional areas of LCN neurons indicate a trend toward decreasing cell size along the dorsolateral to medial axis of the raccoon LCN. Compared to neurons of the centrally located ventromedial division, neurons are statistically significantly larger in the dorsolateral division and smaller in the medial division of the nucleus. Cell counts in post-embedding-stained semithin sections through the nucleus revealed an average of 8,700 neurons per LCN. Approximately 4% of LCN neurons are GABA-immunoreactive. These neurons are small and most (80%) of them are located in the medial third of the LCN. In contrast, GABA-immunoreactive fibers and varicosities are present in about equal density throughout the raccoon LCN. Thus, the distributions of GABA-immunoreactive neurons and neuron sizes in the raccoon LCN conform closely to those in cats. Together with previous observations in cats and raccoons, the present findings support the notion that these small GABA-immuno-reactive neurons may be local circuit inhibitory neurons and indicate the presence of a mediolateral segregation that may be of fundamental importance for the functional organization of the carnivore LCN.