Local field potentials (LFPs) are becoming increasingly popular in neurophysiological studies. However, to date, most of the knowledge about LFPs has been obtained from cortical recordings. Here, we recorded single unit activity (SUA) and LFPs simultaneously from the superior colliculus (SC) of behaving rhesus monkeys. The SC is a midbrain structure that plays a central role in the visual orienting response. Previous studies have characterised the visual and visuomotor response properties of SUA in the superficial layers of the SC and the intermediate layers of the SC, respectively. We found that the signal properties of SUA were well preserved in the LFPs recorded from the SC. The SUA and LFPs had similar spatial and temporal properties, and the response properties of LFPs differed across layers, i.e. purely visual in the superficial layers of the SC but showing significant motor responses in the intermediate layers of the SC. There were also differences between SUA and LFPs. LFPs showed a significant reversal of activity following the phasic visual response, suggesting that the neighboring neurons were suppressed. The results indicate that the LFP can be used as a reliable measure of the SC activity in lieu of SUA, and open up a new way to assess sensorimotor processing within the SC.
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