Consequences of large interindividual variability for human brain atlases: converging macroscopical imaging and microscopical neuroanatomy

Anat Embryol (Berl). 2005 Dec;210(5-6):423-31. doi: 10.1007/s00429-005-0042-4.


In human brain imaging studies, it is common practice to use the Talairach stereotaxic reference system for signifying the convergence of brain function and structure. In nearly all neuroimaging reports, the studied cortical areas are specified further with a Brodmann Area (BA) number. This specification is based upon macroscopic extrapolation from Brodmann's projection maps into the Talairach atlas rather than upon a real microscopic cytoarchitectonic study. In this review we argue that such a specification of Brodmann area(s) via the Talairach atlas is not appropriate. Cytoarchitectonic studies reviewed in this paper show large interindividual differences in 3-D location of primary sensory cortical areas (visual cortex) as well as heteromodal associational areas (prefrontal cortical areas), even after correction for differences in brain size and shape. Thus, the simple use of Brodmann cortical areas derived from the Talairach atlas can lead to erroneous results in the specification of pertinent BA. This in turn can further lead to wrong hypotheses on brain system(s) involved in normal functions or in specific brain disorders. In addition, we will briefly discuss the different 'Brodmann' nomenclatures which are in use for the cerebral cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology*
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Male
  • Medical Illustration
  • Middle Aged
  • Stereotaxic Techniques