Functional cell types in the mouse superior colliculus

  1. Ya-tang Li  Is a corresponding author
  2. Markus Meister  Is a corresponding author
  1. Chinese Institute for Brain Research, China
  2. California Institute of Technology, United States


The superior colliculus (SC) represents a major visual processing station in the mammalian brain that receives input from many types of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). How many parallel channels exist in the SC, and what information does each encode? Here we recorded from mouse superficial SC neurons under a battery of visual stimuli including those used for classification of RGCs. An unsupervised clustering algorithm identified 24 functional types based on their visual responses. They fall into two groups: one that responds similarly to RGCs, and another with more diverse and specialized stimulus selectivity. The second group is dominant at greater depths, consistent with a vertical progression of signal processing in the SC. Cells of the same functional type tend to cluster near each other in anatomical space. Compared to the retina, the visual representation in the SC has lower dimensionality, consistent with a sifting process along the visual pathway.

Data availability

The data and code that produced the figures are available in a public Github repository

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Ya-tang Li

    Chinese Institute for Brain Research, Beijing, China
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0003-2763-1534
  2. Markus Meister

    Division of Biology and Biological Engineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, United States
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    Markus Meister, Reviewing editor, eLife.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0003-2136-6506


National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (R01 NS111477)

  • Markus Meister

Simons Foundation (543015SPI)

  • Markus Meister

National Eye Institute (K99EY028640)

  • Ya-tang Li

Helen Hay Whitney Foundation

  • Ya-tang Li

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.


Animal experimentation: All animal procedures were performed according to relevant guidelines and approved by the Caltech IACUC (protocol 1656).

Reviewing Editor

  1. Fred Rieke, University of Washington, United States

Version history

  1. Preprint posted: April 5, 2022 (view preprint)
  2. Received: August 2, 2022
  3. Accepted: March 16, 2023
  4. Accepted Manuscript published: April 19, 2023 (version 1)
  5. Version of Record published: April 21, 2023 (version 2)


© 2023, Li & Meister

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


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  1. Ya-tang Li
  2. Markus Meister
Functional cell types in the mouse superior colliculus
eLife 12:e82367.

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