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Fig. 671. Spinal cord motor columns

Transverse sections of the medulla spinalis at different levels to show the arrangement of the principal cell columns.

Nerve Cells in the Lateral Column

These form a column which is best marked where the lateral gray column is differentiated, viz., in the thoracic region; but it can be traced throughout the entire length of the medulla spinalis in the form of groups of small cells which are situated in the anterior part of the formatio reticularis. In the upper part of the cervical region and lower part of the medulla oblongata as well as in the third and fourth sacral segments this column is again differentiated. In the medulla it is known as the lateral nucleus. The cells of this column are fusiform or star-shaped, and of a medium size: the axons of some of them pass into the anterior nerve roots, by which they are carried to the sympathetic nerves: they constitute the white rami and are sympathetic or visceral efferent fibers; they are also known as preganglionic fibers of the sympathetic system; the axons of others pass into the anterior and lateral funiculi, where they become longitudinal.

Nerve Cells in the Posterior Column

  1. The dorsal nucleus (nucleus dorsalis; column of Clarke) occupies the medial part of the base of the posterior column, and appears on the transverse section as a well-defined oval area. It begins below at the level of the second or third lumbar nerve, and reaches its maximum size opposite the twelfth thoracic nerve. Above the level of the ninth thoracic nerve its size diminishes, and the column ends opposite the last cervical or first thoracic nerve. It is represented, however, in the other regions by scattered cells, which become aggregated to form a cervical nucleus opposite the third cervical nerve, and a sacral nucleus in the middle and lower part of the sacral region. Its cells are of medium size, and of an oval or pyriform shape; their axons pass into the peripheral part of the lateral funiculus of the same side, and there ascend, probably in dorsal spinocerebellar (direct cerebellar) fasciculus.
  2. The nerve cells in the substantia gelatinosa of Rolando are arranged in three zones: a posterior or marginal, of large angular or fusiform cells; an intermediate, of small fusiform cells; and an anterior, of star-shaped cells. The axons of these cells pass into the lateral and posterior funiculi, and there assume a vertical course. In the anterior zone some Golgi cells are found whose short axons ramify in the gray substance.
  3. Solitary cells of varying form and size are scattered throughout the posterior column. Some of these are grouped to form the posterior basal column in the base of the posterior column, lateral to the dorsal nucleus; the posterior basal column is well-marked in the gorilla (Waldeyer), but is ill-defined in man. The axons of its cells pass partly to the posterior and lateral funiculi of the same side, and partly through the anterior white commissure to the lateral funiculus of the opposite side. Golgi cells, type II, located in this region send axons to the lateral and ventral columns.

A few star-shaped or fusiform nerve cells of varying size are found in the substantia gelatinosa centralis. Their axons pass into the lateral funiculus of the same, or of the opposite side.

The nerve fibers in the gray substance form a dense interlacement of minute fibrils among the nerve cells. This interlacement is formed partly of axons which pass from the cells in the gray substance to enter the white funiculi or nerve roots; partly of the axons of Golgi’s cells which ramify only in the gray substance; and partly of collaterals from the nerve fibers in the white funiculi which, as already stated, enter the gray substance and ramify within it.

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Gray H. Anatomy of the human body. (1918) Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger.

Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2024, April 24) Embryology Gray0671.jpg. Retrieved from

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current13:05, 17 October 2012Thumbnail for version as of 13:05, 17 October 2012347 × 900 (54 KB)Z8600021 (talk | contribs)==Fig. 671. Spinal cord motor columns== Transverse sections of the medulla spinalis at different levels to show the arrangement of the principal cell columns. ===Nerve Cells in the Lateral Column=== These form a column which is best marked where the la