Distributed spatial coding in the superior colliculus: a review

Vis Neurosci. 1991 Jan;6(1):3-13. doi: 10.1017/s0952523800000857.


This paper reviews evidence that the superior colliculus (SC) of the midbrain represents visual direction and certain aspects of saccadic eye movements in the distribution of activity across a population of cells. Accurate and precise eye movements appear to be mediated, in part at least, by cells of the SC that have large sensory receptive fields and/or discharge in association with a range of saccades. This implies that visual points or saccade targets are represented by patches rather than points of activity in the SC. Perturbation of the pattern of collicular discharge by focal inactivation modifies saccade amplitude and direction in a way consistent with distributed coding. Several models have been advanced to explain how such a code might be implemented in the colliculus. Evidence related to these hypotheses is examined and continuing uncertainties are identified.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Eye Movements
  • Models, Biological
  • Saccades / physiology
  • Superior Colliculi / anatomy & histology
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology*
  • Visual Fields
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*