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Engagement of visual fixation suppresses sensory responsiveness and multisensory integration in the primate superior colliculus


: Dr D. Munoz, as above.


Neurons in the intermediate and deep layers of the superior colliculus (SC) often exhibit sensory-related activity in addition to discharging for saccadic eye movements. These two patterns of activity can combine so that modifications of the sensory response can lead to changes in orienting behaviour. Can behavioural factors, however, influence sensory activity? In this study of rhesus monkeys, we isolate one behavioural factor, the state of visual fixation, and examine its influences on sensory processing and multisensory integration in the primate SC. Two interleaved fixation conditions were used: a FIX condition requiring exogenous fixation of a visible fixation point; and a FIX-BLINK condition, requiring endogenous fixation in the absence of a visible fixation point. Neurons of the SC were influenced by fixation state, exhibiting both lower levels of sensory activity and reduced multisensory interactions when fixation was exogenously engaged on a visible fixation point. These results are consistent with active visual fixation suppressing responses to extraneous stimuli, and thus demonstrate that sensory processing and multisensory responses in the SC are not dependent solely on the physical properties of the sensory environment, but are also dynamically influenced by the behavioural state of the animal.