Multisensory Plasticity in Superior Colliculus Neurons is Mediated by Association Cortex

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The ability to integrate information from different senses, and thereby facilitate detecting and localizing events, normally develops gradually in cat superior colliculus (SC) neurons as experience with cross-modal events is acquired. Here, we demonstrate that the portal for this experience-based change is association cortex. Unilaterally deactivating this cortex whenever visual–auditory events were present resulted in the failure of ipsilateral SC neurons to develop the ability to integrate those cross-modal inputs, even though they retained the ability to respond to them. In contrast, their counterparts in the opposite SC developed this capacity normally. The deficits were eliminated by providing cross-modal experience when cortex was active. These observations underscore the collaborative developmental processes that take place among different levels of the neuraxis to adapt the brain's multisensory (and sensorimotor) circuits to the environment in which they will be used.

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