The role of the superior colliculus in predatory hunting

I C Furigo, W F de Oliveira, A R de Oliveira, E Comoli, M V C Baldo, S R Mota-Ortiz, N S Canteras

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58 Citations (Scopus)


Combining the results of behavioral, neuronal immediate early gene activation, lesion and neuroanatomical experiments, we have presently investigated the role of the superior colliculus (SC) in predatory hunting. First, we have shown that insect hunting is associated with a characteristic large increase in Fos expression in the lateral part of the intermediate gray layer of the SC (SCig). Next, we have shown that animals with bilateral NMDA lesions of the lateral parts of the SC presented a significant delay in starting to chase the prey and longer periods engaged in other activities than predatory hunting. They also showed a clear deficit to orient themselves toward the moving prey and lost the stereotyped sequence of actions seen for capturing, holding and killing the prey. Our Phaseolus vulgaris-leucoagglutinin analysis revealed that the lateral SCig, besides providing the well-documented descending crossed pathway to premotor sites in brainstem and spinal cord, projects to a number of midbrain and diencephalic sites likely to influence key functions in the context of the predatory behavior, such as general levels of arousal, motivational level to hunt or forage, behavioral planning, appropriate selection of the basal ganglia motor plan to hunt, and motor output of the primary motor cortex. In contrast to the lateral SC lesions, medial SC lesions produced a small deficit in predatory hunting, and compared to what we have seen for the lateral SCig, the medial SCig has a very limited set of projections to thalamic sites related to the control of motor planning or motor output, and provides conspicuous inputs to brainstem sites involved in organizing a wide range of anti-predatory defensive responses. Overall, the present results served to clarify how the different functional domains in the SC may mediate the decision to pursue and hunt a prey or escape from a predator.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
Issue number1
Early online date12 Oct 2009
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • aggression
  • motor control
  • basal ganglia
  • thalamus
  • periaqueductal gray
  • defensive behavior


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