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Nature. 2002 Jan 3;415(6867):73-6.

The optic tectum controls visually guided adaptive plasticity in the owl's auditory space map.

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Department of Neurobiology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94305, USA.


The midbrain contains an auditory map of space that is shaped by visual experience. When barn owls are raised wearing spectacles that horizontally displace the visual field, the auditory space map in the external nucleus of the inferior colliculus (ICX) shifts according to the optical displacement of the prisms. Topographic visual activity in the optic tectum could serve as the template that instructs the auditory space map. We studied the effects of a restricted, unilateral lesion in the portion of the optic tectum that represents frontal space. Here we show that such a lesion eliminates adaptive adjustments specifically in the portion of the auditory map that represents frontal space on the same side of the brain, while the rest of the map continues to adjust adaptively. Thus, activity in the tectum calibrates the auditory space map in a location-specific manner. Because the site of adaptive changes is the ICX, the results also indicate that the tectum provides a topographic instructive signal that controls adaptive auditory plasticity in the ICX.

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