Responses of visual, somatosensory, and auditory neurones in the golden hamster's superior colliculus

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



The Journal of Physiology








1. The response characteristics of visual, somatosensory, and auditory neurones in the golden hamster's superior colliculus were investigated. 2. As has been noted for other mammalian species, a distinct difference between the functional organizations of the superficial and deeper layers of the superior colliculus was observed. 3. Neurones in the superficial layers were exclusively visual, with small receptive‐fields, and generally did not show response decrements with repeated stimulation. The sizes of the receptive‐fields did not vary appreciably as a function of retinal eccentricity. 4. In the deeper layers, visual receptive‐fields were large, or could not be accurately delimited, and response habituation was often evident. In addition, many cells in the deeper layers of the colliculus responded only to somatosensory stimuli. Far fewer cells, which appeared to be confined to the caudal portions of the colliculus, responded to auditory stimuli. Polymodal cells were also encountered. 5. Selectivity to opposing directions of movement was tested for ninety‐four visual cells. Using a ‘null’ criterion, 27·7% of these cells were judged to be directionally selective. A distribution of the preferred directions of these cells showed a significant preference for movement with an upper‐nasal component. With a statistical criterion, 60·6% of these cells were considered to show a significant asymmetry in responding to movement in opposing directions. 6. Directional selectivity was also tested for ninety‐two cells following acute, unilateral, lesions of the visual cortex. For the eighty cells recorded, homolateral to the ablated cortex, 27·5% were judged as directionally selective using the statistical criterion, while 12·5% were selective with the ‘null’ criterion. Of the twelve cells isolated in the colliculus, contralateral to the lesions, seven were judged as directionally selective with the statistical, and three with the ‘null’ criterion. 7. The effects of visual cortical lesions upon directional selectivity appeared to be confined to cells in the superficial layers of the colliculus. It was suggested that directional selectivity of many cells in the superficial layers of the tectum of the hamster is organized cortically. 8. A clear spatial correspondence was observed for the receptive‐fields of visual, somatosensory, and auditory neurones. 9. As has been suggested for other species, the hamster's superior colliculus appears to play an important role in orienting the animal toward visual, somatosensory, and auditory stimuli. © 1977 The Physiological Society

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