A parsimonious computational model of visual target position encoding in the superior colliculus

Biol Cybern. 2015 Oct;109(4-5):549-59. doi: 10.1007/s00422-015-0660-8. Epub 2015 Sep 5.


The superior colliculus (SC) is a brainstem structure at the crossroad of multiple functional pathways. Several neurophysiological studies suggest that the population of active neurons in the SC encodes the location of a visual target to foveate, pursue or attend to. Although extensive research has been carried out on computational modeling, most of the reported models are often based on complex mechanisms and explain a limited number of experimental results. This suggests that a key aspect may have been overlooked in the design of previous computational models. After a careful study of the literature, we hypothesized that the representation of the whole retinal stimulus (not only its center) might play an important role in the dynamics of SC activity. To test this hypothesis, we designed a model of the SC which is built upon three well-accepted principles: the log-polar representation of the visual field onto the SC, the interplay between a center excitation and a surround inhibition and a simple neuronal dynamics, like the one proposed by the dynamic neural field theory. Results show that the retinotopic organization of the collicular activity conveys an implicit computation that deeply impacts the target selection process.

Keywords: Computational neuroscience; Neural field; Superior colliculus; Topology; Visual target.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Nonlinear Dynamics
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Superior Colliculi / cytology
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology*
  • Visual Fields / physiology*
  • Visual Perception