Role of intrinsic synaptic circuitry in collicular sensorimotor integration.
The superficial gray layer of the superior colliculus contains a map that represents the visual field, whereas the underlying intermediate gray layer contains a vector map of the saccades that shift the direction of gaze. These two maps are aligned so that a particular region of the visual field is represented directly above the neurons that orient the highest acuity area of the retina toward that region. Although it has been proposed that the transmission of information from the visuosensory to the motor map plays an important role in the generation of visually guided saccades, experiments have failed to demonstrate any functional linkage between the two layers. We examined synaptic transmission between these layers in vitro by stimulating the superficial layer while using whole-cell patch-clamp methods to measure the responses of intermediate layer neurons. Stimulation of superficial layer neurons evoked excitatory postsynaptic currents in premotor cells. This synaptic input was columnar in organization, indicating that the connections between the layers link corresponding regions of the visuosensory and motor maps. Excitatory postsynaptic currents were large enough to evoke action potentials and often occurred in clusters similar in duration to the bursts of action potentials that premotor cells use to command saccades. Our results indicate the presence of functional connections between the superficial and intermediate layers and show that such connections could play a significant role in the generation of visually guided saccades.
Lee, PH; Helms, MC; Augustine, GJ; Hall, WC
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