Developmental Mechanisms of Topographic Map Formation and Alignment

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2013 Jul 8;36:51-77. doi: 10.1146/annurev-neuro-062012-170341. Epub 2013 Apr 29.


Brain connections are organized into topographic maps that are precisely aligned both within and across modalities. This alignment facilitates coherent integration of different categories of sensory inputs and allows for proper sensorimotor transformations. Topographic maps are established and aligned by multistep processes during development, including interactions of molecular guidance cues expressed in gradients; spontaneous activity-dependent axonal and dendritic remodeling; and sensory-evoked plasticity driven by experience. By focusing on the superior colliculus, a major site of topographic map alignment for different sensory modalities, this review summarizes current understanding of topographic map development in the mammalian visual system and highlights recent advances in map alignment studies. A major goal looking forward is to reveal the molecular and synaptic mechanisms underlying map alignment and to understand the physiological and behavioral consequences when these mechanisms are disrupted at various scales.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Ephrins / metabolism
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Eph Family / genetics
  • Receptors, Eph Family / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology


  • Ephrins
  • Receptors, Eph Family