Ultra High Field fMRI of Human Superior Colliculi Activity during Affective Visual Processing

Sci Rep. 2020 Jan 28;10(1):1331. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-57653-z.


Research on rodents and non-human primates has established the involvement of the superior colliculus in defensive behaviours and visual threat detection. The superior colliculus has been well-studied in humans for its functional roles in saccade and visual processing, but less is known about its involvement in affect. In standard functional MRI studies of the human superior colliculus, it is challenging to discern activity in the superior colliculus from activity in surrounding nuclei such as the periaqueductal gray due to technological and methodological limitations. Employing high-field strength (7 Tesla) fMRI techniques, this study imaged the superior colliculus at high (0.75 mm isotropic) resolution, which enabled isolation of the superior colliculus from other brainstem nuclei. Superior colliculus activation during emotionally aversive image viewing blocks was greater than that during neutral image viewing blocks. These findings suggest that the superior colliculus may play a role in shaping subjective emotional experiences in addition to its visuomotor functions, bridging the gap between affective research on humans and non-human animals.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging* / methods
  • Male
  • Superior Colliculi / diagnostic imaging*
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology*
  • Visual Perception*
  • Young Adult