Genetic control over morphological variability of primary sulci and gyri is of great interest in the evolutionary, developmental and clinical neurosciences. Primary structures emerge early in development and their morphology is thought to be related to neuronal differentiation, development of functional connections and cortical lateralization. We measured the proportional contributions of genetics and environment to regional variability, testing two theories regarding regional modulation of genetic influences by ontogenic and phenotypic factors. Our measures were surface area, and average length and depth of eleven primary cortical sulci from high-resolution MR images in 180 pedigreed baboons. Average heritability values for sulcal area, depth and length (h(2)(Area)=.38+/-.22; h(2)(Depth)=.42+/-.23; h(2)(Length)=.34+/-.22) indicated that regional cortical anatomy is under genetic control. The regional pattern of genetic contributions was complex and, contrary to previously proposed theories, did not depend upon sulcal depth, or upon the sequence in which structures appear during development. Our results imply that heritability of sulcal phenotypes may be regionally modulated by arcuate U-fiber systems. However, further research is necessary to unravel the complexity of genetic contributions to cortical morphology.
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