Differential tangential expansion as a mechanism for cortical gyrification

Cereb Cortex. 2014 Aug;24(8):2219-28. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bht082. Epub 2013 Mar 29.


Gyrification, the developmental buckling of the cortex, is not a random process-the forces that mediate expansion do so in such a way as to generate consistent patterns of folds across individuals and even species. Although the origin of these forces is unknown, some theories have suggested that they may be related to external cortical factors such as axonal tension. Here, we investigate an alternative hypothesis, namely, whether the differential tangential expansion of the cortex alone can account for the degree and pattern-specificity of gyrification. Using intrinsic curvature as a measure of differential expansion, we initially explored whether this parameter and the local gyrification index (used to quantify the degree of gyrification) varied in a regional-specific pattern across the cortical surface in a manner that was replicable across independent datasets of neurotypicals. Having confirmed this consistency, we further demonstrated that within each dataset, the degree of intrinsic curvature of the cortex was predictive of the degree of cortical folding at a global and regional level. We conclude that differential expansion is a plausible primary mechanism for gyrification, and propose that this perspective offers a compelling mechanistic account of the co-localization of cytoarchitecture and cortical folds.

Keywords: cortical development; differential expansion; gyrification; intrinsic curvature.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / growth & development*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Young Adult