Development of the human fetal insular cortex: study of the gyration from 13 to 28 gestational weeks

Brain Struct Funct. 2007 Dec;212(3-4):335-46. doi: 10.1007/s00429-007-0161-1. Epub 2007 Oct 26.


To describe the morphological stages of insular sulci and gyri development we carried out a macroscopical study on 21 human fetal brains, showing no anomalies, from 13 to 28 gestational weeks (GWs). Particular focus was given to morphological appearance during the development of insular and periinsular structures, especially the gyration and sulcation of the insula, central cerebral region and opercula, as well as the vascularization of these regions. The periinsular sulci and the central (insular and cerebral) sulci were the first macroscopical structures identified on the lateral surface of the human fetal cerebral hemisphere with earlier development on the right hemisphere. Here we describe five stages of insular gyral and sulcal development closely related to gestational age: stage 1: appearance of the first sulcus at 13-17 GWs, stage 2: development of the periinsular sulci at 18-19 GWs, stage 3: central sulci and opercularization of the insula at 20-22 GWs, stage 4: covering of the posterior insula at 24-26 GWs, stage 5: closure of the sylvian fissure at 27-28 GWs. We provide evidence that cortical maturation (sulcation and gyration) and vascularization of the lateral surface of the brain starts with the insular region, suggesting that this region is a central area of cortical development.

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex / embryology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fetal Development / physiology*
  • Fetus / anatomy & histology*
  • Gestational Age*
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy