Spatial and temporal visual properties of the neurons in the intermediate layers of the superior colliculus

Although the visual perception depends on the integration of spatial and temporal information, no knowledge is available concerning the responsiveness of neurons in the intermediate layers of the superior colliculus (SCi) to extended visual grating stimuli. Accordingly, we set out to investigate the responsiveness of these neurons in halothane-anesthetized cats to drifting sinewave gratings at various spatial and temporal frequencies. The SCi units responded optimally to gratings of low spatial frequencies (none of the analyzed SCi units exhibited maximal activity to spatial frequencies higher than 0.3 c/deg) and exhibited low spatial resolution and narrow spatial frequency tuning. On the other hand, the SCi neurons preferred high temporal frequencies and exhibited high temporal resolution. Thus, the SCi neurons seem to be good spatio–temporal filters of visual information in the low spatial and high temporal frequency domain. Based upon the above summarized results we suggest that the SCi units can detect large contours moving at high velocities well, but are unable to distinguish small details. This is in line with the generally held view that the SCi could possess visuomotor function, such as organizing the complex, sensory-guided oculomotor and skeletomotor responses during the self-motion of the animal.