Mapping cortical asymmetry and complexity patterns in normal children

Psychiatry Res. 2001 Jul 1;107(1):29-43. doi: 10.1016/s0925-4927(01)00091-9.


This study reports the first comprehensive three-dimensional (3D) maps of cortical patterns in children. Using a novel parametric mesh-based analytic technique applied to high-resolution T1-weighted MRI scans, we examined age (6-16 years) and gender differences in cortical complexity (the fractal dimension or complexity of sulcal/gyral convolutions) and asymmetry of 24 primary cortical sulci in normally developing children (N=24). Three-dimensional models of the cerebral cortex were extracted and major sulci mapped in stereotaxic space. Given the documented age-related changes in frontal lobe functions and several neuroimaging studies that have reported accompanying volumetric changes in these regions, we hypothesized that, with age, we would find continued modifications of the cerebrum in frontal cortex. We also predicted that phylogenetically older regions of the cerebrum, such as olfactory cortex, would be less variable in anatomic location across subjects and with age. Age-related increases in cortical complexity were found in both left and right inferior frontal and left superior frontal regions, possibly indicating an increase in secondary branching with age in these regions. Moreover, a significant increase in the length of the left inferior frontal sulcus and a posterior shifting of the left pre-central sulcus was associated with age. Three-dimensional asymmetry and anatomic variability maps revealed a significant left-greater-than-right asymmetry of the Sylvian fissures and superior temporal sulci, and increased variance in dorsolateral frontal and perisylvian areas relative to ventral regions of the cortex. These results suggest increases in cortical complexity and subtle modifications of sulcal topography of frontal lobe regions, likely reflecting ongoing processes such as myelination and synaptic remodeling that continue into the second decade of life. More studies in a larger sample set and/or longitudinal design are needed to address the issues of normal individual variation and sulcal development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Child
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Dominance, Cerebral*
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / anatomy & histology*
  • Frontal Lobe / growth & development*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Occipital Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • Occipital Lobe / growth & development
  • Parietal Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • Parietal Lobe / growth & development
  • Reference Values
  • Sex Factors
  • Temporal Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • Temporal Lobe / growth & development