Role of mechanical factors in the morphology of the primate cerebral cortex

PLoS Comput Biol. 2006 Mar;2(3):e22. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.0020022. Epub 2006 Mar 24.


The convoluted cortex of primates is instantly recognizable in its principal morphologic features, yet puzzling in its complex finer structure. Various hypotheses have been proposed about the mechanisms of its formation. Based on the analysis of databases of quantitative architectonic and connection data for primate prefrontal cortices, we offer support for the hypothesis that tension exerted by corticocortical connections is a significant factor in shaping the cerebral cortical landscape. Moreover, forces generated by cortical folding influence laminar morphology, and appear to have a previously unsuspected impact on cellular migration during cortical development. The evidence for a significant role of mechanical factors in cortical morphology opens the possibility of constructing computational models of cortical development based on physical principles. Such models are particularly relevant for understanding the relationship of cortical morphology to the connectivity of normal brains, and structurally altered brains in diseases of developmental origin, such as schizophrenia and autism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Autistic Disorder / pathology
  • Axons
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Humans
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Models, Statistical
  • Neural Pathways
  • Neurons
  • Prefrontal Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Schizophrenia / pathology