Effects of neonatal enucleation on receptive-field properties of visual neurons in superior colliculus of the golden hamster

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of Neurophysiology








Monocular enucleation in infant hamsters results in a marked expansion of the normally very limited ipsilateral retinotectal projection. In 34 hamsters subjected to removal of one eye within 12 h of birth, the receptive-field characteristics of superior collicular neurons ipsilateral and contralateral to the remaining eye were investigated quantitatively and compared to those of normal animals. In six additional neonatal enucleates, the density of the expanded retinotectal projection was studied with the autoradiographic method and an attempt was made to relate the anatomical reorganization with the electrophysiological findings. The response characteristics of visual cells in the colliculus contralateral to the remaining eye were not significantly different from those observed in normal animals. In the ipsilateral tectum, however, numerous changes were observed. Visual receptive fields were abnormally large. The incidence of directional selectivity was markedly reduced, as were the magnitudes of the discharges, elicited by either flashed or moving stimuli. Fewer cells were activated by small flashed spots and most of the units that were responsive to such stimulation failed to exhibit the surround suppression typical for the majority of tectal neurons in normal hamsters. Most cells in the ipsilateral colliculus responded only to relatively low (<50°/s) stimulus velocities and response decrements resulting from repeated stimulation also occurred much more readily for the neurons tested on this side. The results of additional experiments in neonatal enucleates (n = 8), which were also subjected to acute bilateral removal of the visual cortex, demonstrated that such damage resulted in a marked reduction in the incidence of directional selectivity in the colliculus contralateral to the remaining eye but had no effect on the responses of cells innervated by the aberrant ipsilateral pathway. A correlation between the relative density of the ipsilateral retinal projection at different points in the colliculus, as demonstrated by the autoradiography and the nature of the visual responses obtained in different portions of the structure, indicated that receptive-field size was negatively correlated with the density of the aberrant retinotectal projection and that absolute responsivity (number of impulses elicited by an optimal stimulus) was positively correlated with autoradiogaphic grain density. These findings demonstrate that while the aberrant retinocollicular projection can, along with the other visual inputs to the tectum, result in the organization of normal response properties for a small number of tectal neurons, the majority of the visual cells innervated by this pathway have responses that are appreciably different from normal.

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