The dorsal mesial frontal cortex contains the supplementary motor area (SMA) and the pre-supplementary motor area (pre-SMA), which play an important role in action and cognition. Evidence from cytoarchitectonic, stimulation, and functional studies suggests structural and functional divergence between the two subregions. However, a microstructural map of these areas obtained in a representative sample of brains in a stereotaxic reference space is still lacking. In the present study we show that the dorsal mesial frontal motor cortex comprises two microstructurally different brain regions: area SMA and area pre-SMA. Area-specific cytoarchitectonic patterns were studied in serial histological sections stained for cell bodies of ten human postmortem brains. Borders of the two cortical areas were identified using image analysis and statistical features. The 3D reconstructed areas were transferred to a common reference space, and probabilistic maps were calculated by superimposing the individual maps. A coordinate-based meta-analysis of functional imaging data was subsequently performed using the two probabilistic maps as microstructurally defined seed regions. It revealed that areas SMA and pre-SMA were strongly co-activated with areas in precentral, supramarginal and superior frontal gyri, Rolandic operculum, thalamus, putamen and cerebellum. Both areas were related to motor functions, but area pre-SMA was involved in more complex processes such as learning, cognitive processes and perception. The here described subsequent analyses led to converging evidence supporting the microstructural, and functional segregation of areas SMA and pre-SMA, and maps will be made available to the scientific community to further elucidate the microstructural substrates of motor and cognitive control.
Keywords: Cytoarchitectonic mapping; Meta-analytic connectivity modeling; Pre-supplementary motor area; Probability maps; Quantitative cytoarchitectonics; Supplementary motor area.