Normal behavioral responses to light and darkness and the pupillary light reflex are dependent upon the olivary pretectal nucleus in the diurnal Nile grass rat.

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Neuroscience 2017 May 10; 355:225-237



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The olivary pretectal nucleus (OPT) is a midbrain structure that receives reciprocal bilateral retinal projections, is involved in the pupillary light reflex, and connects reciprocally with the intergeniculate leaflet (IGL), a retinorecipient brain region that mediates behavioral responses to light pulses (i.e., masking) in diurnal Nile grass rats. Here, we lesioned the OPT and evaluated behavioral responses in grass rats to various lighting conditions, as well as their anxiety-like responses to light exposure. While control grass rats remained diurnal, grass rats with OPT lesions exhibited a more night-active pattern under 12h:12h light-dark (LD) conditions. However, when placed in constant darkness, OPT-lesioned grass rats became more active during their subjective day, suggesting that an exaggerated masking response to light may be responsible for the effect of OPT lesions on locomotor activity in LD. To test this hypothesis, we presented dark and light pulses to controls and grass rats with OPT lesions; controls increased their activity in response to light, whereas those with OPT lesions significantly increased activity in response to darkness. Further, when placed in a 7-h ultradian LD cycle, animals with OPT lesions were more active during darkness than controls. OPT lesions also abolished the pupillary light reflex, but did not affect anxiety-like behaviors. Finally, in animals with OPT lesions, light did not induce Fos expression in the ventrolateral geniculate nucleus, as it did in controls. Altogether, these results suggest that masking responses to light and darkness are dependent upon nuclei within the subcortical visual shell in grass rats. Neuroscience 2017 May 10; 355:225-237.