Spatial relationships of visuomotor transformations in the superior colliculus map

J Neurophysiol. 2008 Nov;100(5):2564-76. doi: 10.1152/jn.90688.2008. Epub 2008 Aug 27.


The oculomotor system is well understood compared with other motor systems; however, we do not yet know the spatial details of sensory to motor transformations. This study addresses this issue by quantifying the spatial relationships between visual and motor responses in the superior colliculus (SC), a midbrain structure involved in the transformation of visual information into saccadic motor command signals. We collected extracellular single-unit recordings from 150 visual-motor (VM) and 28 motor (M) neurons in two monkeys trained to perform a nonpredictive visually guided saccade task to 110 possible target locations. Motor related discharge was greater than visual related discharge in 94% (141/150) of the VM neurons. Across the population of VM neurons, the mean locations of the peak visual and motor responses were spatially aligned. The visual response fields (RFs) were significantly smaller than and usually contained within the motor RFs. Converting RFs into the SC coordinate system significantly reduced any misalignment between peak visual and motor locations. RF size increased with increasing eccentricity in visual space but remained invariant on the SC map beyond 1 mm of the rostral pole. RF shape was significantly more symmetric in SC map coordinates compared with visual space coordinates. These results demonstrate that VM neurons specify the same location of a target stimulus in the visual field as the intended location of an upcoming saccade with minimal misalignment to downstream structures. The computational consequences of spatially transforming visual field coordinates to the SC map resulted in increased alignment and spatial symmetry during visual-sensory to saccadic-motor transformations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Eye Movements
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motor Cortex / cytology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Superior Colliculi / cytology
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology*
  • Visual Fields / physiology