Measuring structural-functional correspondence: spatial variability of specialised brain regions after macro-anatomical alignment

Neuroimage. 2012 Jan 16;59(2):1369-81. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.08.035. Epub 2011 Aug 19.


The central question of the relationship between structure and function in the human brain is still not well understood. In order to investigate this fundamental relationship we create functional probabilistic maps from a large set of mapping experiments and compare the location of functionally localised regions across subjects using different whole-brain alignment schemes. To avoid the major problems associated with meta-analysis approaches, all subjects are scanned using the same paradigms, the same scanner and the same analysis pipeline. We show that an advanced, curvature driven cortex based alignment (CBA) scheme largely removes macro-anatomical variability across subjects. Remaining variability in the observed spatial location of functional regions, thus, reflects the "true" functional variability, i.e. the quantified variability is a good estimator of the underlying structural-functional correspondence. After localising 13 widely studied functional areas, we found a large variability in the degree to which functional areas respect macro-anatomical boundaries across the cortex. Some areas, such as the frontal eye fields (FEF) are strongly bound to a macro-anatomical location. Fusiform face area (FFA) on the other hand, varies in its location along the length of the fusiform gyrus even though the gyri themselves are well aligned across subjects. Language areas were found to vary greatly across subjects whilst a high degree of overlap was observed in sensory and motor areas. The observed differences in functional variability for different specialised areas suggest that a more complete estimation of the structure-function relationship across the whole cortex requires further empirical studies with an expanded test battery.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms*
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement / methods
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pattern Recognition, Automated / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Subtraction Technique*