Sensorimotor integration in the primate superior colliculus. II. Coordinates of auditory signals

J Neurophysiol. 1987 Jan;57(1):35-55. doi: 10.1152/jn.1987.57.1.35.


Based on the findings of the preceding paper, it is known that auditory and visual signals have been translated into common coordinates at the level of the superior colliculus (SC) and share a motor circuit involved in the generation of saccadic eye movements. It is not known, however, whether the translation of sensory signals into motor coordinates occurs prior to or within the SC. Nor is it known in what coordinates auditory signals observed in the SC are encoded. The present experiment tested two alternative hypotheses concerning the frame of reference of auditory signals found in the deeper layers of the SC. The hypothesis that auditory signals are encoded in head coordinates predicts that, with the head stationary, the response of auditory neurons will not be affected by variations in eye position but will be determined by the location of the sound source. The hypothesis that auditory responses encode the trajectory of the eye movement required to look to the target (motor error) predicts that the response of auditory cells will depend on both the position of the sound source and the position of the eyes in the orbit. Extracellular single-unit recordings were obtained from neurons in the SC while monkeys made delayed saccades to auditory or visual targets in a darkened room. The coordinates of auditory signals were studied by plotting auditory receptive fields while the animal fixated one of three targets placed 24 degrees apart along the horizontal plane. For 99 of 121 SC cells, the spatial location of the auditory receptive field was significantly altered by the position of the eyes in the orbit. In contrast, the responses of five sound-sensitive cells isolated in the inferior colliculus were not affected by variations in eye position. The possibility that systematic variations in the position of the pinnae associated with different fixation positions could account for these findings was controlled for by plotting auditory receptive fields while the pinnae were mechanically restrained. Under these conditions, the position of the eyes in the orbit still had a significant effect on the responsiveness of collicular neurons to auditory stimuli. The average magnitude of the shift of the auditory receptive field with changes in eye position (12.9 degrees) did not correspond to the magnitude of the shift in eye position (24 degrees). Alternative explanations for this finding were considered. One possibility is that, within the SC, there is a gradual transition from auditory signals in head coordinates to signals in motor error coordinates.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Auditory Pathways / physiology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory
  • Eye Movements*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Saccades*
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology