Nature Communications, 26 Mar 2018，DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-03580-7
Divergent midbrain circuits orchestrate escape and freezing responses to looming stimuli in mice
Congping Shang, Zijun Chen, Aixue Liu, Yang Li, Jiajing Zhang, Baole Qu, Fei Yan, Yaning Zhang, Weixiu Liu, Zhihui Liu, Xiaofei Guo, Dapeng Li, Yi Wang & Peng Cao
Animals respond to environmental threats, e.g. looming visual stimuli, with innate defensive behaviors such as escape and freezing. The key neural circuits that participate in the generation of such dimorphic defensive behaviors remain unclear. Here we show that the dimorphic behavioral patterns triggered by looming visual stimuli are mediated by parvalbumin-positive (PV+) projection neurons in mouse superior colliculus (SC). Two distinct groups of SC PV+ neurons form divergent pathways to transmit threat-relevant visual signals to neurons in the parabigeminal nucleus (PBGN) and lateral posterior thalamic nucleus (LPTN). Activations of PV+ SC-PBGN and SC-LPTN pathways mimic the dimorphic defensive behaviors. The PBGN and LPTN neurons are co-activated by looming visual stimuli. Bilateral inactivation of either nucleus results in the defensive behavior dominated by the other nucleus. Together, these data suggest that the SC orchestrates dimorphic defensive behaviors through two separate tectofugal pathways that may have interactions.