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Functional role of the Upper Colliculus In the motivated behaviors of rats

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Pedro Leonardo Cedraz Mercez
Total Authors: 1
Document type: Master's Dissertation
Press: Ribeirão Preto.
Institution: Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Faculdade de Medicina de Ribeirão Preto (PCARP/BC)
Defense date:
Examining board members:
Eliane Comoli; Francisco Silveira Guimarães; Jose Marino Neto
Advisor: Eliane Comoli

The Superior Colliculus (SC) is well known to be responsible for detecting and orienting the head and eyes toward visual stimuli. Moreover SC works in the detection and guidance of initial responses to unexpected objects in the visual field, in addition to the orienting the head towards appetitive and away from potentially threatening stimuli. Previous studies have shown that insect predation in rats is associated with the expression of Fos protein at the lateral part of intermediate layer of Superior Colliculus (SCl) and rats with local bilateral NMDA lesions in the SCl typically fail to orient towards and chase the roaches with the series of stereotyped movements commonly seen in the predatory hunting of intact controls. It seems that the medial region of Superior Colliculus (SCm) is involved in the organization of defensive behavior once stimulation in this site elicits avoidance responses in addition to visceral adjustments related to defensive responses. Interestingly, an increase of Fos immunoreactivity was found in the medial region of SC (SCm) while rats were exposed to the cat (Comoli and Cedraz-Mercez, 2009). A systematic study with the retrograde tracer FluoroGold conducted in our laboratory showed the differences in the pattern of afferent connections suggesting that SCm mostly integrates inputs coming from associative cortical areas and key sites of the defensive circuitry while SCl integrates inputs from whiskers and orofacial-related somatosensory information which is important for approaching behaviors. These anatomical differences might be very important to influence SC in modulating behavioral responses to biologically relevant stimuli. Based on the mentioned above we propose that SCm and SCl could be functionally distinct. Our results showed that rats exposed to the natural predator or exposed to the roaches and the natural predator together performed fear responses and Fos upregulation at the SCm. Muscimol inactivation of SCm showed an increase of exploratory behaviors and reduction of freezing responses when the animals were exposed o both the roaches and the predator together. In a challenging experiment rats were food deprived and were exposed to both, the roaches and the natural predator and Fos protein was detected. Fifty percent of the rats showed predatory behavior and did not show the fear responses commonly seen when exposed to the natural predator. Moreover an increase of Fos protein levels was observed at the SCl of these rats. The other fifty percent of the rats showed fear responses and did not hunt the preys. In contrast an increase of Fos protein was detected at SCm and at the hypothalamic defensive circuitry of these rats. We suggest that SCm is very important for integration of information concerning the predator and might influence the behavioral selection process at the level of basal ganglia. We also suggest there is a relation between collicular and hypothalamic defensive circuits. (AU)