Journal of Neurophysiology

Converging influences from visual, auditory, and somatosensory cortices onto output neurons of the superior colliculus

M. T. Wallace, M. A. Meredith, B. E. Stein


1. Physiological methods were used to examine the pattern of inputs from different sensory cortices onto individual superior colliculus neurons. 2. Visual, auditory, and somatosensory influences from anterior ectosylvian sulcus (AES) and visual influences from lateral suprasylvian (LS) cortex were found to converge onto individual multisensory neurons in the cat superior colliculus. An excellent topographic relationship was found between the different sensory cortices and their target neurons in the superior colliculus. 3. Corticotectal inputs were derived solely from unimodal neurons. Multisensory neurons in AES and LS were not antidromically activated from the superior colliculus. 4. Orthodromic and antidromic latencies were consistent with monosynaptic corticotectal inputs arising from LS and the three subdivisions of AES (SIV, Field AES, and AEV). 5. Superior colliculus neurons that received convergent cortical inputs formed a principal component of the tecto-reticulospinal tract. Thus there appears to be extensive cortical control over the output neurons through which the superior colliculus mediates attentive and orientation behaviors. 6. Two other multisensory circuits were identified. A population of multisensory superior colliculus neurons was found, which neither received convergent cortical input nor projected into the tecto-reticulo-spinal tract. In addition, multisensory neurons in AES and LS proved to be independent of the superior colliculus (i.e., they were not corticotectal). While it is likely that these three distinct multisensory neural circuits have different functional roles, their constituent neurons appear to integrate their various sensory inputs in much the same way.