The superior colliculus exerts its most direct influence over orienting movements, and saccades in particular, via its descending projections to the brain stem and spinal cord. However, while there is detailed physiological data concerning the generation of saccade-related activity in the primate superior colliculus, there is relatively little data on the detailed connectivity of this structure in primates. Consequently, retrograde transport techniques were utilized to determine the locations of the cells of origin of these descending pathways in macaque monkeys. Tectal cells that projected to the ipsilateral pontine reticular formation were mainly found in the deep gray layer and occasionally in the intermediate gray layer. Tectal cells that projected to the contralateral pontine reticular formation were predominantly located in the intermediate gray layer. The contralaterally projecting population could be subdivided into two groups. The cells in upper sublamina of the intermediate gray layer project primarily to the saccade-related regions of the paramedian reticular formation. Cells in the lower sublamina project primarily to more lateral regions of the pontine reticular formation and to the spinal cord. We conclude that the primate colliculus is provided with at least three descending output channels, which are likely to differ in their connections and functions. Specifically, it seems likely that the lower portion of the intermediate gray layer may be specialized to subserve combined head and eye orienting movements, while the upper sublamina subserves saccades.
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