We analyzed the topographical variability of human somatosensory area 2 in 10 postmortem brains. The brains were serially sectioned at 20 microm, and sections were stained for cell bodies. Area 2 was delineated with an observer-independent technique based on significant differences in the laminar densities of cell bodies. The sections were corrected with an MR scan of the same brain obtained before histological processing. Each brain's histological volume and representation of area 2 was subsequently reconstructed in 3-D. We found that the borders of area 2 are topographically variable. The rostral border lies between the convexity of the postcentral gyrus and some millimeters deep in the rostral wall of the postcentral sulcus. The caudal border lies between the fundus of the postcentral sulcus and some millimeters above it in the rostral wall. In contrast to Brodmann's map, area 2 does not extend onto the mesial cortical surface or into the intraparietal sulcus. When the postcentral sulcus is interrupted by a gyral bridge, area 2 crosses this bridge and is not separated into two segments. After cytoarchitectonic analysis, the histological volumes were warped to the reference brain of a computerized atlas and superimposed. A population map was generated in 3-D space, which describes how many brains have a representation of area 2 in a particular voxel. This microstructurally defined population map can be used to demonstrate activations of area 2 in functional imaging studies and therefore help to further understand the role of area 2 in somatosensory processing.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.