Segregated fronto-cortical and midbrain connections in the mouse and their relation to approach and avoidance orienting behaviors

J Comp Neurol. 2017 Jun 1;525(8):1980-1999. doi: 10.1002/cne.24186. Epub 2017 Mar 20.


The orchestration of orienting behaviors requires the interaction of many cortical and subcortical areas, for example the superior colliculus (SC), as well as prefrontal areas responsible for top-down control. Orienting involves different behaviors, such as approach and avoidance. In the rat, these behaviors are at least partially mapped onto different SC subdomains, the lateral (SCl) and medial (SCm), respectively. To delineate the circuitry involved in the two types of orienting behavior in mice, we injected retrograde tracer into the intermediate and deep layers of the SCm and SCl, and thereby determined the main input structures to these subdomains. Overall the SCm receives larger numbers of afferents compared to the SCl. The prefrontal cingulate area (Cg), visual, oculomotor, and auditory areas provide strong input to the SCm, while prefrontal motor area 2 (M2), and somatosensory areas provide strong input to the SCl. The prefrontal areas Cg and M2 in turn connect to different cortical and subcortical areas, as determined by anterograde tract tracing. Even though connectivity pattern often overlap, our labeling approaches identified segregated neural circuits involving SCm, Cg, secondary visual cortices, auditory areas, and the dysgranular retrospenial cortex likely to be involved in avoidance behaviors. Conversely, SCl, M2, somatosensory cortex, and the granular retrospenial cortex comprise a network likely involved in approach/appetitive behaviors.

Keywords: RRID:SCR_013672; approach behaviors; avoidance behaviors; cingulate area; motor cortex area 2; superior colliculus.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning / physiology*
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Orientation / physiology*