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Eur J Neurosci. 2013 May;37(10):1594-601. doi: 10.1111/ejn.12182. Epub 2013 Mar 27.

Development of cortical influences on superior colliculus multisensory neurons: effects of dark-rearing.

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School of Life Science, East China Normal University, Shanghai, China, 2000062.


Rearing cats from birth to adulthood in darkness prevents neurons in the superior colliculus (SC) from developing the capability to integrate visual and non-visual (e.g. visual-auditory) inputs. Presumably, this developmental anomaly is due to a lack of experience with the combination of those cues, which is essential to form associative links between them. The visual-auditory multisensory integration capacity of SC neurons has also been shown to depend on the functional integrity of converging visual and auditory inputs from the ipsilateral association cortex. Disrupting these cortico-collicular projections at any stage of life results in a pattern of outcomes similar to those found after dark-rearing; SC neurons respond to stimuli in both sensory modalities, but cannot integrate the information they provide. Thus, it is possible that dark-rearing compromises the development of these descending tecto-petal connections and the essential influences they convey. However, the results of the present experiments, using cortical deactivation to assess the presence of cortico-collicular influences, demonstrate that dark-rearing does not prevent the association cortex from developing robust influences over SC multisensory responses. In fact, dark-rearing may increase their potency over that observed in normally-reared animals. Nevertheless, their influences are still insufficient to support SC multisensory integration. It appears that cross-modal experience shapes the cortical influence to selectively enhance responses to cross-modal stimulus combinations that are likely to be derived from the same event. In the absence of this experience, the cortex develops an indiscriminate excitatory influence over its multisensory SC target neurons.

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