Defense-Like Behaviors Evoked by Pharmacological Disinhibition of the Superior Colliculus in the Primate
Stimulation of the intermediate and deep layers of superior colliculus (DLSC) in rodents evokes both orienting/pursuit (approach) and avoidance/flight (defense) responses (Dean et al., 1989). These two classes of response are subserved by distinct output projections associated with lateral (approach) and medial (defense) DLSC (Comoli et al., 2012). In non-human primates, DLSC has been examined only with respect to orienting/approach behaviors, especially eye movements, and defense-like behaviors have not been reported. Here we examined the profile of behavioral responses evoked by activation of DLSC by unilateral intracerebral infusions of the GABAA receptor antagonist, bicuculline methiodide (BIC), in nine freely moving macaques. Across animals, the most consistently evoked behavior was cowering (all animals), followed by increased vocalization and escape-like behaviors (seven animals), and attack of objects (three animals). The effects of BIC were dose-dependent within the range 2.5–14 nmol (threshold dose of 4.6 nmol). The behaviors and their latencies to onset did not vary across different infusion sites within DLSC. Cowering and escape-like behaviors resembled the defense-like responses reported after DLSC stimulation in rats, but in the macaques these responses were evoked from both medial and lateral sites within DLSC. Our findings are unexpected in the context of an earlier theoretical perspective (Dean et al., 1989) that emphasized a preferential role of the primate DLSC for approach rather than defensive responses. Our data provide the first evidence for induction of defense-like behaviors by activation of DLSC in monkeys, suggesting that the role of DLSC in responding to threats is conserved across species.