The effect of acute, mid-cervical spinal cord lesions on neuronal and reflex activity evoked by the noxious visceral stimulus, colorectal distension (CRD; 80 mmHg, 20 s), was determined in halothane-anesthetized rats. Extracellular recordings were performed of neurons stereotaxically located within the ventrobasal group of the thalamus and in the region of the medullary lateral reticular nucleus. CRD-evoked activity of thalamic neurons was attenuated by lesions of the dorsal midline, but minimally affected by lateral lesions of the spinal cord. In contrast, CRD-evoked activity of medullary neurons was attenuated by lateral lesions ipsilateral to the recording site, but minimally affected by contralateral lateral lesions or dorsal midline lesions. Pseudaffective visceromotor/cardiovascular responses were vigorous in rats with dorsal midline lesions and absent/attenuated in rats with bilateral lateral spinal lesions. This study presents evidence that visceral nociceptive information ascends in the spinal cord by both dorsal midline and lateral spinal pathways. Copyright (C) 2000 International Association for the Study of Pain. Published by Elsevier Science B.V.