It is common to think of gray matter as the site of integration in neural circuits and white matter as the wires that connect different groups of neurons. The dorsal column (DC) white matter, for example, is the spinal cord axonal pathway through which a topographic map of the body is conveyed to the somatosensory cortex. We now describe a network of neurons located along the midline of the DCs. The neurons are present in several mammals, including primates and birds, and have a profuse dendritic arbor that expresses both the neuron-specific marker, microtubule-associated protein-2, and the neurokinin-1 receptor, a target of the neuropeptide, substance P. Electron microscopy and double immunostaining for synaptophysin and a marker of γ-aminobutyric acid-ergic terminals documented a rich synaptic input to these neurons. Finally, injection of a γ-aminobutyric acid type A receptor antagonist or of substance P into the cerebrospinal fluid of the rat spinal cord induced Fos expression and internalization of the neurokinin-1 receptor in these neurons, respectively, indicating that the DC neurons are under tonic inhibitory control and can respond to neurotransmitters that circulate in the cerebrospinal fluid
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