The superior colliculus

Brian J. White and Douglas P. Munoz

in The Oxford Handbook of Eye Movements

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199539789
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 The superior colliculus

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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The mammalian superior colliculus (SC) serves the crucial function of guiding and coordinating the orienting response. Integrating multisensory, motor, and cognitive information, and sending motor commands directly to the brainstem circuitry, the SC initiates a rapid orienting response that can invoke much of the body. The phylogenetic preservation of this structure illustrates its ongoing significance for survival, but for higher mammals, evolutionary pressure for flexible control over orienting behaviour coincided with development of a much more complex set of corticotectal projections. As a result, orienting in higher mammals (e.g. primates) is controlled by a careful interplay between sensory-driven and goal-driven processes that converge in the SC. This review focuses on the SC as a critical locus for this interaction, whereby one compartment fits the role of a visual saliency map, and another a priority map that represents the integration of salience and behavioural relevance.

Keywords: superior colliculus; phylogenetic; visual saliency map; extrinsic circuitry; orienting behaviour

Article.  12432 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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