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Neurosci Res. 2001 Aug;40(4):301-13.

Organization of the neurons of origin of the descending pathways from the ferret superior colliculus.

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Department of Anatomy, Visual/Motor Neuroscience Division, Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, PO Box 980709, Richmond, VA 23298-0709, USA.


The superior colliculus (SC), through its descending projections to the brainstem and spinal cord, is involved in initiating sensory-driven orienting behaviors. Ferrets are carnivores that hunt both above and below ground using visual (and auditory) cues in the daylight but non-visual cues in darkness and in subterranean environments. The present investigation sought to determine whether the ferret SC shows organizational features similar to those found in other visually dominant animals (e.g. cats), or whether characteristics of colliculi from non-visually dominant animals (e.g. rodents) prevail. Injection of retrograde tracer into the identified targets of the colliculus (cervical spinal cord, the contralateral pontomedullary reticular formation, or the ipsilateral pontine reticular formation) labeled tectospinal, crossed tectoreticular, and ipsilateral tectoreticular neurons, respectively, within the adult ferret SC. Labeled tectospinal and crossed tectoreticular neurons were far outnumbered by neurons with ipsilateral reticular projections. Like those of their visually dominant relatives, ferret tectospinal neurons were well represented throughout the anterior-posterior extent of the SC and crossed tectoreticular neurons tended to be distributed more broadly across the intermediate gray layer than those of rodents. Thus, even though ferrets perform well as subterranean predators where non-visual cues initiate orienting behaviors, these anatomical characteristics indicate that their colliculi are organized similar to that of their visually dominant, carnivorous relatives.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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