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Neurons in the deeper layers of the superior colliculus (SC) have spatially tuned receptive fields that are arranged to form a map of auditory space. The spatial tuning of these neurons emerges gradually in an experience-dependent manner after the onset of hearing, but the relative contributions of peripheral and central factors in this process of maturation are unknown. We have studied the postnatal development of the projection to the ferret SC from the nucleus of the brachium of the inferior colliculus (nBIC), its main source of auditory input, to determine whether the emergence of auditory map topography can be attributed to anatomical rewiring of this projection. The pattern of retrograde labeling produced by injections of fluorescent microspheres in the SC on postnatal day (P) 0 and just after the age of hearing onset (P29), showed that the nBIC-SC projection is topographically organized in the rostrocaudal axis, along which sound azimuth is represented, from birth. Injections of biotinylated dextran amine-fluorescein into the nBIC at different ages (P30, 60, and 90) labeled axons with numerous terminals and en passant boutons throughout the deeper layers of the SC. This labeling covered the entire mediolateral extent of the SC, but, in keeping with the pattern of retrograde labeling following microsphere injections in the SC, was more restricted rostrocaudally. No systematic changes were observed with age. The stability of the nBIC-SC projection over this period suggests that developmental changes in auditory spatial tuning involve other processes, rather than a gross refinement of the projection from the nBIC.

Original publication




Journal article


J Comp Neurol

Publication Date





202 - 217


Animals, Auditory Pathways, Ferrets, Hearing, Inferior Colliculi, Neurons, Superior Colliculi