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J Neurophysiol. 2004 Nov;92(5):2933-46. Epub 2004 Jun 30.

Functional topography of converging visual and auditory inputs to neurons in the rat superior colliculus.

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University Laboratory of Physiology, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3PT, UK.


We have used a slice preparation of the infant rat midbrain to examine converging inputs onto neurons in the deeper multisensory layers of the superior colliculus (dSC). Electrical stimulation of the superficial visual layers (sSC) and of the auditory nucleus of the brachium of the inferior colliculus (nBIC) evoked robust monosynaptic responses in dSC cells. Furthermore, the inputs from the sSC were found to be topographically organized as early as the second postnatal week and thus before opening of the eyes and ear canals. This precocious topography was found to be sculpted by GABAA-mediated inhibition of a more widespread set of connections. Tracer injections in the nBIC, both in coronal slices as well as in hemisected brains, confirmed a robust projection originating in the nBIC with distinct terminals in the proximity of the cell bodies of dSC neurons. Combined stimulation of the sSC and nBIC sites revealed that the presumptive visual and auditory inputs are summed linearly. Finally, whereas either input on its own could manifest a significant degree of paired-pulse facilitation, temporally offset stimulation of the two sites revealed no synaptic interactions, indicating again that the two inputs function independently. Taken together, these data provide the first detailed intracellular analysis of convergent sensory inputs onto dSC neurons and form the basis for further exploration of multisensory integration and developmental plasticity.

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