Collateral projections of predorsal bundle cells of the superior colliculus in the rat.
The deep layers of the superior colliculus contain cells which are premotor in the sense that they respond prior to the onset of shifts in gaze and send axons, by way of a pathway called the predorsal bundle, to the contralateral brainstem gaze centers and cervical spinal cord. Previous studies have suggested that these cells also contribute to other efferent pathways which arise in the deep layers. The present study examines the contributions of the cells of origin of the predorsal bundle to these additional pathways as a step toward understanding their roles in gaze mechanisms. In one series of experiments, retrograde tracers were used to compare the laminar distribution of predorsal bundle cells with the distributions of the cells of origin of three other pathways: those that project to the intralaminar region of the dorsal thalamus, those that project to the contralateral superior colliculus, and those that project to the ipsilateral brainstem tegmentum. Predorsal bundle cells were found primarily in stratum griseum intermedium sublayer b. This distribution overlaps extensively with the distribution of colliculus cells that project to the intralaminar region of the thalamus. In contrast, the majority of the colliculus cells that project to either the contralateral superior colliculus or the ipsilateral brainstem tegmentum do not overlap extensively with the predorsal bundle cells; instead, they are primarily located dorsal or ventral to sublayer b of stratum griseum intermedium. In a second series of experiments, two regions were injected with different retrograde fluorescent traces in single animals in order to study the collateral projections of the cells of origin of these pathways. The results indicate that many predorsal bundle cells project to the intralaminar region of the dorsal thalamus but that only a few contribute to the tectotectal pathway. The results also indicate that few tectotectal cells contribute to the ipsilateral tectobulbar pathway.
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