The tectum (Latin: roof) also tectum mesencephali, or midbrain tectum is the dorsal region or roof of the midbrain.[1][2] The position of the tectum is contrasted with the tegmentum, which refers to the region ventral (in front of) to the ventricular system, or floor of the midbrain. The tectum is responsible for auditory and visual reflexes. The tectum consists of the four colliculi known as the corpora quadrigemina.[1] In non-mammals the tectum refers to the superior colliculus and is known as the optic tectum.

Deep dissection of brainstem. Lateral view.
Part ofMidbrain
NeuroLex IDbirnlex_1032
Anatomical terms of neuroanatomy

In the cat the superior colliculus projects through the reticular formation and interacts with motor neurons in the brainstem.[3]

In non-mammals these connections from the optic tectum are important for the recognition and reaction to various sized objects which is facilitated by excitatory optic nerve transmitters like L-glutamate.[4] Recent lesion studies have suggested that the optic tectum has no influence over higher-order motion responses like OMR or OKR[5], but may be more integral to lower-order cues in motion perception like in the identification of small objects.[6]

The tectum is derived in embryonic development from the alar plate of the neural tube.


View of midbrain in the brainstem showing covering tectum and tegmental floor

The optic tectum is the visual center in the non mammalian brain which develops from the alar plate of the mesencephalon.

In mammals the superior colliculus has a laminar organization which allows for different cell types to be present on corresponding layers . One example of the layer specificity is the deep laminae which send output signals away from the tectum toward the motor neurons, specifically the pontine nucleus. The pontine nucleus is located in the basal pons and is responsible for sharing information between the cerebrum and cerebellum (Pontine nucleus). Another example is the superficial laminae which receive input from retinal ganglion cells.

In humans, the tectal area known as the corpora quadrigemina consists of the inferior and the superior colliculi.

Both colliculi also have descending projections to the paramedian pontine reticular formation and spinal cord, and thus can be involved in responses to stimuli faster than cortical processing would allow.

The structure is supplied by quadrigeminal artery (a branch of posterior cerebral artery), and superior cerebellar artery.


Disrupting visual experience early on in Zebrafish development results in a change in tectal activity. Changes in tectal activity resulted in an inability to successfully hunt and capture prey.[7] Hypothalamus inhibitory signaling to the deep tectal neuropil is important in tectal processing in zebrafish larvae.[8] The tectal neuropil contains structures including periventricular neurons axons and dendrites. The neuropil also contains GABAergic superficial inhibitory neurons located in stratum opticum.[9] Instead of a large cerebral cortex, Zebrafish have a relatively large optic tectum that is hypothesized to carry out some of the visual processing that the cortex performs in mammals.[10]

Related termsEdit

The term "tectal plate" or "quadrigeminal plate" is used to describe the junction of the gray and white matter in the embryo. (ancil-453 at NeuroNames)

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See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "MeSH Browser". Retrieved 11 October 2019.
  2. ^ Bear, Mark F.; Connors, Barry W.; Paradiso, Michael A. (2007). Neuroscience. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. ISBN 9780781760034.
  3. ^ Precht, W. (1974). "Tectal influences on cat ocular motoneurons". Brain Research. 20 (1): 27–40. doi:10.1016/0006-8993(74)90890-7.
  4. ^ Beart, Phillip (1976). "An evaluation of L-glutamate as the transmitter released from optic nerve terminals of the pigeon". Brain Research. 110 (1): 99–114. doi:10.1016/0006-8993(76)90211-0. PMID 6128.
  5. ^ Roeser, Tobias (2003). "Visuomotor Behaviors in Larval Zebrafish after GFP-Guided Laser Ablation of the Optic Tectum". Journal of Neuroscience. 23 (9): 3726–3734. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.23-09-03726.2003.
  6. ^ Barker, Alison (2015). "Sensorimotor Decision Making in the Zebrafish Tectum". Current Biology. 25 (21): 2804–2814. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2015.09.055. PMID 26592341.
  7. ^ Avitan, L., Pujic, Z., Mölter, J., Van De Poll, M., Sun, B., Teng, H., Amor, R., Scott, E.K., Goodhill, G.J. (2017) Spontaneous Activity in the Zebrafish Tectum Reorganizes over Development and Is Influenced by Visual Experience. Current biology : CB. 27(16):2407-2419.e4.
  8. ^ Heap LA, Vanwalleghem GC, Thompson AW, Favre-Bulle I, Rubinsztein-Dunlop H, Scott EK. Hypothalamic Projections to the Optic Tectum in Larval Zebrafish  . Front Neuroanat  . 2018;11:135.
  9. ^ Dunn, Timothy W et al. “Neural Circuits Underlying Visually Evoked Escapes in Larval Zebrafish” Neuron vol. 89,3 (2016): 613-28.
  10. ^ Heap LA, Vanwalleghem GC, Thompson AW, Favre-Bulle I, Rubinsztein-Dunlop H, Scott EK. Hypothalamic Projections to the Optic Tectum in Larval Zebrafish  . Front Neuroanat  . 2018;11:135.

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