The present studies were initiated to explore the basis for the response suppression that occurs in cat superior colliculus (SC) neurons when two spatially disparate stimuli are presented simultaneously or in close temporal proximity to one another. Of specific interest was examining the possibility that suppressive regions border the receptive fields (RFs) of unimodal and multisensory SC neurons and, when activated, degrade the neuron's responses to excitatory stimuli. Both within- and cross-modality effects were examined. An example of the former is when a response to a visual stimulus within its RF is suppressed by a second visual stimulus outside the RF. An example of the latter is when the response to a visual stimulus within the visual RF is suppressed when a stimulus from a different modality (e.g., auditory) is presented outside its (i.e., auditory) RF. Suppressive regions were found bordering visual, auditory, and somatosensory RFs. Despite significant modality-specific differences in the incidence and effectiveness of these regions, they were generally quite potent regardless of the modality. In the vast majority (85%) of cases, responses to the excitatory stimulus were degraded by ≤50% by simultaneously stimulating the suppressive region. Contrary to expectations and previous speculations, the effects of activating these suppressive regions often were quite specific. Thus powerful within- modality suppression could be demonstrated in many multisensory neurons in which cross-modality suppression could not be generated. However, the converse was not true. If an extra-RF stimulus inhibited center responses to stimuli of a different modality, it also would suppress center responses to stimuli of its own modality. Thus when cross-modality suppression was demonstrated, it was always accompanied by within-modality suppression. These observations suggest that separate mechanisms underlie within- and cross- modality suppression in the SC. Because some morality-specific tectopetal structures contain neurons with suppressive regions bordering their RFs, the within-modality suppression observed in the SC simply may reflect interactions taking place at the level of one input channel. However, the presence of modality-specific suppression at the level of one input channel would have no effect on the excitation initiated via another input channel. Given the modality-specificity of tectopetal inputs, it appears that cross- modality interactions require the convergence of two or more modality- specific inputs onto the same SC neuron and that the expression of these interactions depends on the internal circuitry of the SC. This allows a cross-modality suppressive signal to be nonspecific and to degrade any and all of the neuron's excitatory inputs.
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