The superior colliculus (SC) plays a key role in controlling spatial attention. It is hypothesized that some forms of spatial attention, such as the detection of a single salient object arise from lateral competitive interactions between different locations within the spatial map in the SC. This hypothesis is supported by a recent in vitro study showing that a 'Mexican hat'-like pattern of synaptic connectivity is implemented in the intrinsic circuit of the superficial layer of the SC (sSC). However, the neuronal population mechanisms responsible for this pattern still remain unclear. Here, we examined how spatial response modulations, for example lateral interactions and surround suppression, are represented at the neuronal population level using in vivo two-photon calcium imaging in the mouse sSC. Observation of neuronal population responses with single-cell resolution enabled us to identify a small subset of neurons that were activated by relatively small visual stimuli (< 1° diameter), and thus allowed us to detect the exact location of the 'response center' in the sSC to a visual stimulus presented at a given location. We demonstrated that presenting two-point stimuli or one large stimulus modulated the spatial response pattern of the neuronal population, i.e. centre facilitation and surround suppression. Furthermore, we found that both GABAergic and non-GABAergic neurons showed a similar population response pattern of surround suppression. The population dynamics suggest the circuit mechanism underlying lateral inhibition and surround suppression may be supported by long-range inhibitory neurons in the sSC.
Keywords: lateral interaction; superior colliculus; surround suppression; two-photon imaging.
© 2016 Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.