Cytoarchitecture of the avian optic tectum: Neuronal substrate for cellular computation

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To analyse cellular computation in the vertebrate brain, a thorough knowledge of the underlying anatomy, physiology and connectivity of the neuronal substrate is essential. This review compiles data on one of the best known structures of the vertebrate brain, the optic tectum of birds. The functions of this structure are multifold, but can be attributed largely to orientation and the basic analysis of sensory data in a spatial context. In the tectum, a wealth of data on physiology and anatomy has been gathered over more than a century and provides an excellent background for computational studies. The analysis of the optic tectum is facilitated by several principles of organisation, including the retinotopic input and the highly laminated layout with separated input and output layers. Moreover, the molecular mechanisms guiding the development and connectivity have been analysed in detail. As the avian tectum and the mammalian superior colliculus are partly homologous, the cellular mechanisms unraveled in the tectum can also be transferred to the colliculus and thus contribute to the understanding of the vertebrate visual system in general.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-106
Number of pages22
JournalReviews in the Neurosciences
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Anatomy
  • Cell types
  • Chick
  • Midbrain
  • Pigeon
  • Projections
  • Visual system


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