Interlaminar connections of the superior colliculus in the tree shrew. I. The superficial gray layer.
One of the most persistent problems in the study of the superior colliculus is the relationship between its superficial and deep layers. The superficial tier of layers is considered to be visuosensory in function, whereas the deep tier is multisensory and has premotor functions. This fundamental distinction is the primary basis for the view that a visually triggered shift in the direction of gaze depends on the transfer of information from sensory cells in the superficial tier to premotor cells in the deep tier. The goal of the present experiments was to examine the interlaminar projections of the superficial gray layer in the tree shrew Tupaia belangeri. We used biocytin as the marker for tracing the pathways. The tree shrew was chosen because its large and distinctly laminated superior colliculus facilitates the task of examining connections between the layers. Biocytin was used because of its sensitivity and because it allowed us to place very small injections restricted entirely to the superficial gray layer. The results demonstrated that a prominent pathway originates in the superficial gray layer and terminates in stratum opticum. In comparison, the projection from the superficial gray layer to the layers beneath stratum opticum is extremely sparse. The pathway from the superficial gray layer to stratum opticum has a columnar distribution, extending about 100 microns rostrally and caudally from the center of the injection site. There were no signs of more remote intracollicular connections, nor of patches or bands of terminals. The biocytin injection sites also labeled pathways to nuclei as distant from the superior colliculus as the diencephalon, including the dorsal and ventral lateral geniculate bodies, and the pulvinar. The results suggest that stratum opticum may serve as a link between the superficial gray layer and the deeper layers.
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