Superior Colliculus

The superior colliculus is a paired structure located in the midbrain, specifically in the tectum region. It is an important sensory processing center involved in the integration of visual, auditory, and somatosensory information.


The superior colliculus is divided into two distinct layers: the superficial or optic layer, and the deep or motor layer. The optic layer receives direct input from the retina and is primarily responsible for visual processing. The motor layer integrates sensory signals and coordinates eye movements, head movements, and other motor responses.


The superior colliculus plays a crucial role in several important functions:

  • Visual Reflexes: The optic layer of the superior colliculus receives visual information and mediates reflexive eye movements, such as saccades (rapid eye movements) and gaze shifts.
  • Auditory Integration: The superior colliculus receives auditory input from the brainstem and helps orient the head and eyes towards sound sources.
  • Multi-Sensory Integration: It integrates inputs from different sensory modalities, particularly visual and auditory, to facilitate coordinated responses to external stimuli.
  • Spatial Attention: The superior colliculus plays a critical role in directing attention towards salient visual or auditory stimuli in the environment.
  • Pain Perception: Some studies suggest that the superior colliculus may be involved in processing and modulating pain signals.

Clinical Implications

Dysfunction or damage to the superior colliculus can result in various sensory and motor deficits. It may lead to impaired visual tracking, difficulties in orienting towards sound sources, problems with spatial attention, and abnormal eye movements.