The myeloarchitectonic studies on the human cerebral cortex of the Vogt-Vogt school, and their significance for the interpretation of functional neuroimaging data

Brain Struct Funct. 2013 Mar;218(2):303-52. doi: 10.1007/s00429-012-0460-z. Epub 2012 Oct 18.


The human cerebral cortex contains numerous myelinated fibres, many of which are concentrated in tangentially organized layers and radially oriented bundles. The spatial organization of these fibres is by no means homogeneous throughout the cortex. Local differences in the thickness and compactness of the fibre layers, and in the length and strength of the radial bundles renders it possible to recognize areas with a different myeloarchitecture. The neuroanatomical subdiscipline aimed at the identification and delineation of such areas is known as myeloarchitectonics. There is another, closely related neuroanatomical subdiscipline, named cytoarchitectonics. The aims and scope of this subdiscipline are the same as those of myeloarchitectonics, viz. parcellation. However, this subdiscipline focuses, as its name implies, on the size, shape and arrangement of the neuronal cell bodies in the cortex, rather than on the myelinated fibres. At the beginning of the twentieth century, two young investigators, Oskar and Cécile Vogt founded a centre for brain research, aimed to be devoted to the study of the (cyto + myelo) architecture of the cerebral cortex. The study of the cytoarchitecture was entrusted to their collaborator Korbinian Brodmann, who gained great fame with the creation of a cytoarchitectonic map of the human cerebral cortex. Here, we focus on the myeloarchitectonic studies on the cerebral cortex of the Vogt-Vogt school, because these studies are nearly forgotten in the present attempts to localize functional activations and to interprete findings in modern neuroimaging studies. Following introductory sections on the principles of myeloarchitectonics, and on the achievements of three myeloarchitectonic pioneers who did not belong to the Vogt-Vogt school, the pertinent literature is reviewed in some detail. These studies allow the conclusion that the human neocortex contains about 185 myeloarchitectonic areas, 70 frontal, 6 insular, 30 parietal, 19 occipital, and 60 temporal. It is emphasized that the data available, render it possible to compose a myeloarchitectonic map of the human neocortex, which is at least as reliable as any of the classic architectonic maps. During the realization of their myeloarchitectonic research program, in which numerous able collaborators were involved, the Vogts gradually developed a general concept of the organization of the cerebral cortex. The essence of this concept is that this structure is composed of about 200 distinct, juxtaposed 'Rindenfelder' or 'topistische Einheiten', which represent fundamental structural as well as functional entities. The second main part of this article is devoted to a discussion and evaluation of this 'Vogt-Vogt concept'. It is concluded that there is converging quantitative cytoarchitectonic, receptor architectonic, myeloarchitectonic, hodological, and functional evidence, indicating that this concept is essentially correct. The third, and final part of this article deals with the problem of relating particular cortical functions, as determined with neuroimaging techniques, to particular cortical structures. At present, these 'translation' operations are generally based on adapted, three-dimensional versions of Brodmann's famous map. However, it has become increasingly clear that these maps do not provide the neuroanatomical precision to match the considerable degree of functional segregation, suggested by neuroimaging studies. Therefore, we strongly recommend an attempt at combining and synthesizing the results of Brodmann's cytoarchitectonic analysis, with those of the detailed myeloarchitectonic studies of the Vogt-Vogt school. These studies may also be of interest for the interpretation of the myeloarchitectonic features, visualized in modern in vivo mappings of the human cortex.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Functional Neuroimaging* / history
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / physiology*
  • Neuroanatomy* / history
  • Staining and Labeling