Paracingulate asymmetry in anterior and midcingulate cortex: sex differences and the effect of measurement technique

Brain Struct Funct. 2009 Oct;213(6):553-69. doi: 10.1007/s00429-009-0210-z. Epub 2009 Jul 28.


Many structural brain asymmetries accompany left hemisphere language dominance. For example, the cingulate sulcus is larger in the medial cortex of the right hemisphere, while the more dorsal paracingulate sulcus is larger on the left. The functional significance of these asymmetries is unknown because fMRI studies rarely attempt to localize activation to specific sulci, possibly due to difficulties in consistent sulcal identification. In medial cortex, for example, there are many regions of partial sulcal overlap where MRI images do not provide sufficient information to unambiguously distinguish a paracingulate sulcus from a displaced anterior cingulate segment. As large samples of postmortem material are rarely available for cytoarchitectural studies of sulcal variation, we have investigated the effect of variation in boundary and sulcal definition on paracingulate asymmetry in the MRI scans of 200 healthy adults (100 men, 100 women). Although women displayed a reliable asymmetry in the size of the paracingulate sulcus, regardless of boundary definition or technique, asymmetry was greatest when (1) the measurement was limited to the midcingulate region between the genu and the anterior commissure; and (2) the more dorsal of two overlapping sulci was always classified as a paracingulate sulcus (rather than as a displaced cingulate segment). The fact that paracingulate asymmetry is maximal in the midcingulate region suggests that this region may play a particular role in hemispheric specialization for language. Future work should investigate the structural and functional correlates of sulcal variation in this region.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Dominance, Cerebral*
  • Female
  • Gyrus Cinguli / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Organ Size
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Young Adult