The macro-structural variability of the human neocortex

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The human neocortex shows a considerable individual structural variability. While primary gyri and sulci are found in all normally developed brains and bear clear-cut gross structural descriptions, secondary structures are highly variable and not present in all brains. The blend of common and individual structures poses challenges when comparing structural and functional results from quantitative neuroimaging studies across individuals, and sets limits on the precision of location information much above the spatial resolution of current neuroimaging methods. This work aimed at quantifying structural variability on the neocortex, and at assessing the spatial relationship between regions common to all brains and their individual structural variants. Based on structural MRI data provided as the “900 Subjects Release” of the Human Connectome Project, a data-driven analytic approach was employed here from which the definition of seven cortical “communities” emerged. Apparently, these communities comprise common regions of structural features, while the individual variability is confined within a community. Similarities between the community structure and the state of the brain development at gestation week 32 lead suggest that communities are segregated early. Subdividing the neocortex into communities is suggested as anatomically more meaningful than the traditional lobar structure.

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