Send to

Choose Destination
Exp Brain Res. 1996 May;109(2):197-208.

Nociceptive neurones in rat superior colliculus. II. Effects of lesions to the contralateral descending output pathway on nocifensive behaviours.

Author information

Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield, UK.


A wealth of evidence implicates the crossed descending projection from the superior colliculus (SC) in orientation and approach behaviours directed towards novel, non-noxious stimuli. In our preceding paper, we identified a population of nociceptive neurones in the rat SC that have axons that project to the contralateral brainstem via this output pathway. The purpose of the present study was, therefore, to evaluate the prediction that the crossed descending projection of the SC is also involved in the control of orientation and approach movements of the head and mouth made during the localisation of persistent noxious stimuli. An independent-groups design was used to test the effects of interrupting the contralateral descending projection from the SC on the behavioural reactions elicited by noxious mechanical stimuli presented to the tail and hindpaws. In different groups of animals, a microwire knife was used to cut the contralateral descending fibres at two different locations: (1) a sagittal cut at the level of the dorsal tegmental decussation; (2) a bilateral coronal cut of the predorsal bundle at the level of the medial pontine reticular formation. Retrograde anatomical tracing techniques were then used to evaluate the effectiveness of the cuts and to assess possible involvement of non-collicular fibre systems in both lesioned and control animals. Additional behavioural procedures were performed to test for general neurological status and responsiveness of animals to non-noxious stimuli. Anatomical tracing data indicated that the largest population of neurones with fibres severed by both cuts were the cells-of-origin of the contralateral descending projection in the intermediate white layer of the SC. Behavioural results showed that significantly more animals in both lesion groups failed to locate and bite a mechanical clip placed on the tail. Instead of switching to motor behaviours to localise and remove noxious stimuli, they persisted with defensive reactions, which included freezing, vocalisation or forward and backward escape. In contrast, when the clip was placed on the hindpaws, it was successfully localised by most lesioned and control animals; however, lesioned animals had reliably longer latencies and spent less time in close contact with the clip. Consistent with the established role of the contralateral descending projection in non-noxious orientation, lesioned animals also showed orienting deficits to a range of non-noxious sensory stimuli. These data suggest that, under certain behavioural circumstances, nociceptive information from the SC is integral to the elaboration of orienting and approach movements of the head and mouth elicited by persistent noxious stimuli.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center