The Foveal Visual Representation of the Primate Superior Colliculus

Curr Biol. 2019 Jul 8;29(13):2109-2119.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.05.040. Epub 2019 Jun 27.


A defining feature of the primate visual system is its foveated nature. Processing of foveal retinal input is important not only for high-quality visual scene analysis but also for ensuring precise, albeit tiny, gaze shifts during high-acuity visual tasks. The representations of foveal retinal input in the primate lateral geniculate nucleus and early visual cortices have been characterized. However, how such representations translate into precise eye movements remains unclear. Here, we document functional and structural properties of the foveal visual representation of the midbrain superior colliculus. We show that the superior colliculus, classically associated with extra-foveal spatial representations needed for gaze shifts, is highly sensitive to visual input impinging on the fovea. The superior colliculus also represents such input in an orderly and very specific manner, and it magnifies the representation of foveal images in neural tissue as much as the primary visual cortex does. The primate superior colliculus contains a high-fidelity visual representation, with large foveal magnification, perfectly suited for active visuomotor control and perception.

Keywords: V1; fixational eye movements; fovea; foveal magnification; microsaccades; ocular drift; primary visual cortex; retinotopic mapping; superior colliculus; topography.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Eye Movements
  • Fovea Centralis / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta / physiology*
  • Male
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*