Deep Sulcal Landmarks Provide an Organizing Framework for Human Cortical Folding

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Abstract

The folding pattern of the cerebral cortex and its relation to functional areas is notoriously variable and there is a need to identify more consistent 3-dimensional (3D) topographical cortical features. We analyzed magnetic resonance brain images of 96 normal adult human volunteers using automated 3D image analysis methods. We examined the deeper parts of the sulci because they generally show less interindividual variability than more superficial parts, especially in monozygotic twins, and deepest parts of primary sulci are the first to develop embryologically and change least as the cortex expands. Along the length of each sulcus we found that there is generally one well-defined zone where depth is maximal, which we term the sulcal pit. Long sulci may have 2 or 3 pits. The spatial arrangement of pits is strikingly regular, forming alternating chains of deeper and shallower pits. We hypothesize that the pits are encoded in the protomap described in Rakic (1988. Specification of cerebral cortical areas. Science. 241:170–176) and are under closer genetic control than the rest of the cortex and are likely to have a more consistent relationship to functional areas.

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