Journal of Neurophysiology

Topographic organization of somatosensory corticotectal influences in cat

H. R. Clemo, B. E. Stein

Abstract

Using electrophysiological techniques, the present study demonstrated that substantial direct somatosensory cortical influences on the superior colliculus (SC) originate from three areas: a) SIV, b) para-SIV (the cortex adjacent to SIV but deeper in the anterior ectosylvian sulcus (AES) and for which no topography has yet been described), and c) the rostral suprasylvian sulcus. Influences also appeared to originate from SI and SII, but these may have been indirect. Detailed examination of the AES revealed that these corticotectal projections are topographically organized, and stimulation of a given cortical locus was observed to affect only those cells in the SC whose receptive fields overlapped those of cells at the stimulation site. A similar receptive-field register was found between the suprasylvian sulcus and the SC. Within this topographic pattern, considerable convergence was evident and an individual SC cell could be influenced from a surprisingly large cortical area. This was particularly evident within the representation of the forelimb. Thus, an SC cell with a receptive field covering the forelimb and paw could receive convergent input from many cortical cells with receptive fields covering all or restricted portions of this body region. Considerable corticotectal divergence also was observed within this general topographic scheme. For example, a given corticotectal site representing the digits sent projections to many different SC cells that included the digits within their receptive fields. These data are more consistent with a block-to-block than a point-to-point corticotectal projection. Somatosensory corticotectal projections excited only those SC cells that could also be activated by peripheral somatosensory stimuli. Similarly, the caudal AES, which contains auditory cells, excited only those SC cells activated also by peripheral auditory stimuli. Yet convergent influences from both auditory and somatosensory regions of the AES were observed in the SC cells that could be activated by both auditory and somatosensory stimuli. These data indicate that the AES is a major source of excitatory input to cells of the deep laminae of the SC. Since it is these deep laminae cells that project to premotor regions of the brain stem and the spinal cord, it is reasonable to suppose that the AES has a significant impact on the output signals of the SC that initiate the orientation responses to peripheral sensory stimulation.