We have used photostimulation and whole cell patch-clamp recording techniques to examine local synaptic interactions in slices from the superior colliculus of the tree shrew. Uncaging glutamate 10-75 microm from the somata of neurons in the intermediate gray layer elicited a long-lasting inward current, due to direct activation of glutamate receptors on these neurons, and brief inward currents caused by activation of presynaptic neurons. The synaptic responses occurred as individual currents or as clusters that lasted up to several hundred milliseconds. Excitatory synaptic responses, which reversed at membrane potentials near 0 mV, could be evoked by uncaging glutamate anywhere within 75 microm of an intermediate layer neuron. Our results indicate the presence of extensive local excitatory circuits in the intermediate layer of the superior colliculus and support the hypothesis that such intrinsic circuitry contributes to the development of presaccadic command bursts.