Developmental plasticity in the visual and auditory representations in the mammalian superior colliculus


Environmental factors play an important role in certain aspects of the development of sensory systems1–3. But the way in which the maturation of different sensory modalities is coordinated is poorly understood. We have investigated this question neurophysio-logically in the mammalian superior colliculus (SC), which con-tains topographically aligned maps of visual and auditory space4–6. We report here that an essentially normal auditory map, in approximate register with the visual map, is found in the SC of adult ferrets reared with abnormal binaural localization cues. Also, if, early in life, one eye is deviated laterally, there is a compensatory shift in the auditory map, but early eye rotation totally disorders the auditory representation. These results imply that development of the auditory map is affected by visual activity or by information about eye position and that there is definite, but limited, capacity for the auditory map to reorganize so that it remains aligned with the visual map.

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King, A., Hutchings, M., Moore, D. et al. Developmental plasticity in the visual and auditory representations in the mammalian superior colliculus. Nature 332, 73–76 (1988).

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