The projection from different visual cortical areas to the rat superior colliculus

Alan R. Harvey, Delys R. Worthington

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79 Citations (Scopus)


The rat occipital cortex contains a number of morphologically and physiologically distinct visual areas. Retrograde tracing studies have shown that most if not all of these areas project in a topographic fashion to the ipsilateral superior colliculus (SC). In the present study, small amounts of wheat germ agglutinin‐conjugated HRP (WGA‐HRP) were injected into adult rat occipital cortex to determine how afferents from the different visual cortical areas are distributed within the various layers of the SC. Cytoarchitectonic criteria were used to help establish the location of the WGA‐HRP injections in the cortex. As a further aid to identifying the sites of injection, the distribution of retrogradely labelled cells within the thalamus was mapped in each brain. Analysis revealed a surprising range of visuocortical projections to the rat SC, with input to the majority of tectal laminae. Area 17 projected most heavily to the dorsal stratum opticum (SO) and lower half of stratum griseum superficial (SGS) with lighter label extending up to the collicular surface, Axons and terminals from area 18 formed two horizontal tiers, one in the middle of the stratum griseum intermediale (SGI) and the other at the border between the stratum album intermediale (SAI) and the stratum griseum profundum (SGP). Periodic puffs of label extended between these horizontal tiers, with a periodicity of 300–400 μm. There was some variability in the labelling pattern in the superior colliculus after area 18a injections, perhaps because this cytoarchitectonic area contains multiple representations of the visual field. Generally the projection from the lateromedial, laterointermediate, and laterolateral parts of 18a was heaviest in the lower half of SO and upper regions of SGI. Lighter label extended up into the lower half of SGS. In the SGI it was common to find periodic puffs of terminal label interspersed with areas devoid of innervation. This periodic pattern was particularly noticeable after WGA‐HRP injections into anterior 18a. Two horizontal tiers of label were located at the SO/SGI border and SGI/SAI border (the dorsal being the most dense) with patches of label extending between these tiers every 230–250 μm. There did not appear to be a significant corticotectal projection from the posterior part of the lateral extrastriate region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-292
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1990
Externally publishedYes


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