Superior colliculus and visual spatial attention

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2013 Jul 8;36:165-82. doi: 10.1146/annurev-neuro-062012-170249. Epub 2013 May 15.


The superior colliculus (SC) has long been known to be part of the network of brain areas involved in spatial attention, but recent findings have dramatically refined our understanding of its functional role. The SC both implements the motor consequences of attention and plays a crucial role in the process of target selection that precedes movement. Moreover, even in the absence of overt orienting movements, SC activity is related to shifts of covert attention and is necessary for the normal control of spatial attention during perceptual judgments. The neuronal circuits that link the SC to spatial attention may include attention-related areas of the cerebral cortex, but recent results show that the SC's contribution involves mechanisms that operate independently of the established signatures of attention in visual cortex. These findings raise new issues and suggest novel possibilities for understanding the brain mechanisms that enable spatial attention.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology