Neuron-specific contribution of the superior colliculus to overt and covert shifts of attention

Nat Neurosci. 2004 Jan;7(1):56-64. doi: 10.1038/nn1169. Epub 2003 Dec 21.


The analysis of a peripheral visual location can be improved in two ways: either by orienting one's gaze (usually by making a foveating saccade) or by 'covertly' shifting one's attention to the peripheral location without making an eye movement. The premotor theory of attention holds that saccades and spatial shifts of attention share a common functional module with a distinct neuronal basis. Using single-unit recording from the brains of trained rhesus monkeys, we investigated whether the superior colliculus, the major subcortical center for the control of saccades, is part of this shared network for attention and saccades. Here we show that a distinct type of neuron in the intermediate layer of the superior colliculus, the visuomotor neuron, which is known to be centrally involved in the preparation of saccades, is also active during covert shifts of attention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology*