Cerebral Cortex Three-Dimensional Profiling in Human Fetuses by Magnetic Resonance Imaging

J Anat. 2004 Jun;204(6):465-74. doi: 10.1111/j.0021-8782.2004.00301.x.


Seven human fetuses of crown/rump length corresponding to gestational ages ranging from the 12th to the 16th week were studied using a paradigm based on three-dimensional reconstruction of the brain obtained by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The aim of the study was to evaluate brain morphology in situ and to describe developmental dynamics during an important period of fetal morphogenesis. Three-dimensional MRI showed the increasing degree of maturation of the brains; fronto-occipital distance, bitemporal distance and occipital angle were examined in all the fetuses. The data were interpreted by correlation with the internal structure as visualized using high-spatial-resolution MRI, acquired using a 4.7-T field intensity magnet with a gradient power of 20 G cm(-1). The spatial resolution was sufficient for a detailed detection of five layers, and the contrast was optimized using sequences with different degrees of T1 and T2 weighting. Using the latter, it was possible to visualize the subplate and marginal zones. The cortical thickness was mapped on to the hemispheric surface, describing the thickness gradient from the insular cortex to the periphery of the hemispheres. The study demonstrates the utility of MRI for studying brain development. The method provides a quantitative profiling of the brain, which allows the calculation of important morphological parameters, and it provides informative regarding transient features of the developing brain.

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Cortex / embryology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Morphogenesis / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Second