Brain Structure and Function

, Volume 223, Issue 4, pp 1923–1936 | Cite as

GABAergic and non-GABAergic projections to the superior colliculus from the auditory brainstem

  • Jeffrey G. Mellott
  • Nichole L. Beebe
  • Brett R. Schofield
Original Article


The superior colliculus (SC) contains an auditory space map that is shaped by projections from several subcortical auditory nuclei. Both GABAergic (inhibitory) and excitatory cells contribute to these inputs, but there are contradictory reports regarding the sources of these inputs. We used retrograde tracing techniques in guinea pigs to identify cells in the auditory brainstem that project to the SC. We combined retrograde tracing with immunohistochemistry for glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) to identify putative GABAergic cells that participate in this pathway. Following a tracer injection in the SC, the nucleus of the brachium of the inferior colliculus (NBIC) contained the most labeled cells, followed by the inferior colliculus (IC). Smaller populations were observed in the sagulum, paralemniscal area, periolivary nuclei and ventrolateral tegmental nucleus. Overall, only 10% of the retrogradely labeled cells were GAD immunopositive. The presumptive inhibitory cells were observed in the NBIC, IC, superior paraolivary nucleus, sagulum and paralemniscal area. We conclude that the guinea pig SC receives input from a diverse set of auditory brainstem nuclei, some of which provide GABAergic input. These diverse origins of input to the SC likely represent a variety of functions. Inputs from the NBIC and IC likely provide spatial information for guiding orienting behaviors. Inputs from subcollicular nuclei are less likely to provide spatial information; rather, they may provide a shorter route for auditory information to reach the SC, and could generate avoidance or escape responses to an external threat.


Inferior colliculus Nucleus of the brachium of the inferior colliculus Inhibition Orienting Avoidance behavior Attention Escape 



Cerebral aqueduct


Central mesencephalic reticular formation


Dorsal periolivary nucleus


Dorsal cochlear nucleus


Dorsolateral periolivary nucleus


Dorsal nucleus of the lateral lemniscus


Deep gray/white layers of the superior colliculus




Glutamic acid decarboxylase


GAD immunopositive


GAD immunonegative


Green beads


Granule cell area of cochlear nucleus


Inferior colliculus


Central nucleus of the inferior colliculus


Dorsal cortex of the inferior colliculus


Lateral cortex of the inferior colliculus


Rostral pole of the inferior colliculus


Intercollicular tegmentum


Intermediate nucleus of the lateral lemniscus


Intermediate gray/white layers of the superior colliculus


Lateral superior olive


Lateral nucleus of the trapezoid body


Medial superior olivary nucleus


Medial nucleus of the trapezoid body


Nucleus of the brachium of the inferior colliculus


Optic layer of the superior colliculus


Periaqueductal gray


Paralemniscal area


Pontine nuclei


Red beads




Superior colliculus


Superior cerebellar peduncle


Superior olivary complex


Superior paraolivary nucleus


Superficial gray layer of the superior colliculus


Ventral cochlear nucleus


Ventral nucleus of the lateral lemniscus


Ventrolateral tegmental nucleus


Ventral nucleus of the trapezoid body



Supported by National Institutes of Health Grant R01 DC004391. We gratefully acknowledge Colleen Sowick for technical assistance and Dr. Denise Inman for critical feedback on an earlier draft of the manuscript.

Author contributions

All authors contributed to data generation and analysis. JGM and BRS designed the experiments and wrote the paper.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anatomy and NeurobiologyNortheast Ohio Medical UniversityRootstownUSA

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