The mouse is a promising model in the study of visual system function and development because of available genetic tools. However, a quantitative analysis of visual receptive field properties had not been performed in the mouse superior colliculus (SC) despite its importance in mouse vision and its usefulness in developmental studies. We have made single-unit extracellular recordings from superficial layers of the SC in urethane-anesthetized C57BL/6 mice. We first map receptive fields with flashing spot stimuli and show that most SC neurons have spatially overlapped ON and OFF subfields. With drifting sinusoidal gratings, we then determine the tuning properties of individual SC neurons, including selectivity for stimulus direction and orientation, spatial frequency tuning, temporal frequency tuning, response linearity, and size preference. A wide range of receptive field sizes and selectivity are observed across the population and in various subtypes of SC neurons identified morphologically. In particular, orientation-selective responses are discovered in the mouse SC, and they are not affected by cortical lesion or long-term visual deprivation. However, ON/OFF characteristics and spatial frequency tuning of SC neurons are influenced by cortical inputs and require visual experience during development. Together, our results provide essential information for future investigations on the functional development of the superior colliculus.
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