Influences of Brain Size, Sex, and Sex Chromosome Complement on the Architecture of Human Cortical Folding

Cereb Cortex. 2017 Dec 1;27(12):5557-5567. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhw323.


Gyrification is a fundamental property of the human cortex that is increasingly studied by basic and clinical neuroscience. However, it remains unclear if and how the global architecture of cortical folding varies with 3 interwoven sources of anatomical variation: brain size, sex, and sex chromosome dosage (SCD). Here, for 375 individuals spanning 7 karyotype groups (XX, XY, XXX, XYY, XXY, XXYY, XXXXY), we use structural neuroimaging to measure a global sulcation index (SI, total sulcal/cortical hull area) and both determinants of sulcal area: total sulcal length and mean sulcal depth. We detail large and patterned effects of sex and SCD across all folding metrics, but show that these effects are in fact largely consistent with the normative scaling of cortical folding in health: larger human brains have disproportionately high SI due to a relative expansion of sulcal area versus hull area, which arises because disproportionate sulcal lengthening overcomes a lack of proportionate sulcal deepening. Accounting for these normative allometries reveals 1) brain size-independent sulcal lengthening in males versus females, and 2) insensitivity of overall folding architecture to SCD. Our methodology and findings provide a novel context for future studies of human cortical folding in health and disease.

Keywords: allometry; gyrification; sex chromosome aneuploidy; sex differences; sulci.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / physiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Karyotype
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Organ Size
  • Pattern Recognition, Automated
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sex Chromosome Aberrations*
  • Young Adult