Dendritic organization of neurons of the superior colliculus in animals with different visual capability

Brain Res Bull. 2000 Feb;51(3):255-65. doi: 10.1016/s0361-9230(99)00230-0.


The aim of the study was to compare several morphological characteristics of neurons in the superficial layers of the superior colliculus in diurnal and nocturnal mammals with different visual specialization. Thus, we investigated the rat (Rattus norvegicus), a nocturnal animal; the tree shrew (Tupaia glis), a diurnal animal, and the Mongolian rodents, Microtus brandti (nocturnal) and Alticola barakshin (diurnal). The investigation was focused on the study of the organization and extent of dendrites of Golgi-impregnated projection neurons, which were divided in two classes: narrow-field and wide-field cells. We determined that the ratios between the volumes of dendritic fields of the investigated neuronal types and the total volume of the superior colliculus differed to a great extent between the different species. The tree shrew had the largest superior colliculus and the smallest wide-field neurons, while the rat had the largest wide-field neurons. As for the Mongolian rodents, we provided the first description of superior colliculus neurons. The day-active animal Alticola barakshin was found to have a 50% larger volume of the superior colliculus than that of the night-active animal Microtus brandti, and the size of the dendritic field of both wide-field neurons and narrow-field neurons was smaller than that of Microtus brandti. Electron microscopic investigation of wide-field neurons performed in the rat revealed only a few symmetric synaptic contacts on the arborizations of distal and terminal dendrites and numerous asymmetric synapses on the dendritic stem. Our findings support the hypothesis that whereas the narrow-field neurons are relay neurons in the retino-tecto-thalamic pathway of the visual system, the wide-field neurons may play additional roles in the retino-tecto-reticulo-spinal system.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arvicolinae / anatomy & histology
  • Arvicolinae / physiology
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure*
  • Female
  • Golgi Apparatus / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Neurons / ultrastructure*
  • Rats / anatomy & histology
  • Rats / physiology
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Superior Colliculi / anatomy & histology
  • Superior Colliculi / cytology
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology
  • Superior Colliculi / ultrastructure*
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synapses / ultrastructure
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology
  • Tupaiidae / anatomy & histology
  • Tupaiidae / physiology
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology*