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Prog Brain Res. 2006;151:379-405.

The pretectum: connections and oculomotor-related roles.

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  • 1Department of Vision Sciences, School of Optometry, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA.


Research over the past two decades in mammals, especially primates, has greatly improved our understanding of the afferent and efferent connections of two retinorecipient pretectal nuclei, the nucleus of the optic tract (NOT) and the pretectal olivary nucleus (PON). Functional studies of these two nuclei have further elucidated some of the roles that they play both in oculomotor control and in relaying oculomotor-related signals to visual relay nuclei. Therefore, following a brief overview of the anatomy and retinal projections to the entire mammalian pretectum, the connections and potential roles of the NOT and the PON are considered in detail. Data on the specific connections of the NOT are combined with data from single-unit recording, microstimulation, and lesion studies to show that this nucleus plays critical roles in optokinetic nystagmus, short-latency ocular following, smooth pursuit eye movements, and adaptation of the gain of the horizontal vestibulo-ocular reflex. Comparable data for the PON show that this nucleus plays critical roles in the pupillary light reflex, light-evoked blinks, rapid eye movement sleep triggering, and modulating subcortical nuclei involved in circadian rhythms.

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