Journal of Neurophysiology

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Auditory response properties of neurons in deep layers of cat superior colliculus

L. Z. Wise, D. R. Irvine


1. The auditory responses of 207 single neurons in the intermediate and deep layers of the superior colliculus (SC) of barbiturate -or chloralose-anesthetized cats were recorded extracellularly. Sealed stimulating systems incorporating calibrated probe microphone assemblies were employed to present tone- and noise-burst stimuli. 2. All acoustically activated neurons responded with onset responses to noise bursts. Of those neurons also tested with tonal stimuli, approximately 30% were unresponsive over the frequency range tested (0.1-40 kHz), while the others had higher thresholds to tones than to noise. 3. Details of frequency responsiveness were obtained for 55 neurons; 21 were broadly tuned, while 34 were sharply tuned with clearly defined characteristic frequencies (CFs). All sharply tuned neurons had CFs greater than or equal to 10 kHz. 4. The majority of neurons (81%) responded with latencies in the range 8-20 ms; only 11% of neurons had latencies greater than 30 ms. 5. Binaural response properties were examined for 165 neurons. The great majority (79%) received monaural excitatory input only from the contralateral ear (EO). However, most EO cells were binaurally influenced, the contralateral response being either inhibited (EO/I; 96 of 131 units) or facilitated (EO/F; 33 of 131 units) by simultaneous ipsilateral stimulation. Small subgroups were monaurally excited by either ear (EE cells; 8%) or were unresponsive monaurally but responded strongly to binaural stimulation (OO/F cells; 7%). 6. EO/I, EO/F, and OO/F neurons showed characteristic forms of sensitivity to interaural intensity differences (IIDs). The IID functions of EO/I neurons would be expected to produce large contralateral spatial receptive fields with clearly defined medial borders, such as have been described in studies of deep SC neurons employing free-field stimuli. 7. Preliminary evidence suggests a possible topographic organization of IID sensitivity in deep SC, such that the steeply sloping portion of the function (corresponding to the medial edge of the receptive field) is shifted laterally for EO/I neurons located more caudally in the nucleus. 8. The auditory properties of deep SC neurons are compared with previous reports and implications for the organization of auditory input are considered. The binaural properties and auditory spatial fields of deep SC neurons suggest that any representation of auditory space in this structure is unlikely to be based on restricted spatial fields.