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J Neurophysiol. 2003 Oct;90(4):2123-35.

Cortex controls multisensory depression in superior colliculus.

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Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27157, USA.


Multisensory depression is a fundamental index of multisensory integration in superior colliculus (SC) neurons. It is initiated when one sensory stimulus (auditory) located outside its modality-specific receptive field degrades or eliminates the neuron's responses to another sensory stimulus (visual) presented within its modality-specific receptive field. The present experiments demonstrate that the capacity of SC neurons to engage in multisensory depression is strongly dependent on influences from two cortical areas (the anterior ectosylvian and rostral lateral suprasylvian sulci). When these cortices are deactivated, the ability of SC neurons to synthesize visual-auditory inputs in this way is compromised; multisensory responses are disinhibited, becoming more vigorous and in some cases indistinguishable from responses to the visual stimulus alone. Although obtaining a more robust multisensory SC response when cortex is nonfunctional than when it is functional may seem paradoxical, these data may help explain previous observations that the loss of these cortical influences permits visual orientation behavior in the presence of a normally disruptive auditory stimulus.

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