Spatial frequency sensitivity in macaque midbrain

Nat Commun. 2018 Jul 20;9(1):2852. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-05302-5.


Visual brain areas exhibit tuning characteristics well suited for image statistics present in our natural environment. However, visual sensation is an active process, and if there are any brain areas that ought to be particularly in tune with natural scene statistics, it would be sensory-motor areas critical for guiding behavior. Here we found that the rhesus macaque superior colliculus, a structure instrumental for rapid visual exploration with saccades, detects low spatial frequencies, which are the most prevalent in natural scenes, much more rapidly than high spatial frequencies. Importantly, this accelerated detection happens independently of whether a neuron is more or less sensitive to low spatial frequencies to begin with. At the population level, the superior colliculus additionally over-represents low spatial frequencies in neural response sensitivity, even at near-foveal eccentricities. Thus, the superior colliculus possesses both temporal and response gain mechanisms for efficient gaze realignment in low-spatial-frequency-dominated natural environments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Mesencephalon / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Normal Distribution
  • Poisson Distribution
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*