Collicular involvement in a saccadic colour discrimination task

Exp Brain Res. 1987;66(3):465-78. doi: 10.1007/BF00270679.


We have recorded the neural activity of single superior colliculus (SC) neurons in monkeys engaged in a saccadic target/nontarget discrimination task based on a colour cue. Since correct execution of this task probably depends on cortical signal processing, our experiments are of interest for getting a better insight in the problem of how cortical and subcortical signals, relevant for the visual guidance of saccades, are combined. The experiments were designed to distinguish between two extreme possibilities: The crucial cortical signal affects the saccadic system at or above the level of the SC movement-related cells (serial hypothesis); The colour-based target information bypasses the motor colliculus and affects the saccadic system at a level more downstream (bypass hypothesis). Under conditions where the saccadic system had to select a green target stimulus and to ignore the red nontarget spot, the saccade-related activity in SC visuomotor neurons remained as tightly coupled to the metrics of the saccade as it was in a simple spot-detection task. Since the saccade-related activity of these cells appeared to be based on colour information, we conclude that our data corroborate the serial hypothesis. The initial activity after stimulus onset appeared to be colour nonopponent in all neurons. In some cells the neural activity was quantitatively slightly different for the green target and the red nontarget. Since these minor differences were colour rather than motor response dependent, they were probably not part of the target-selection process. These data suggest the possibility that the decision as to which saccade should be made was largely imposed upon the SC visuomotor cells by an external source. We discuss various possibilities for the origin of the putative intervening signal which orders a saccade by causing a burst in the appropriate SC visuomotor neurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Color Perception / physiology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Eye Movements*
  • Fixation, Ocular
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Saccades*
  • Superior Colliculi / cytology
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology*