Different Principles Govern Different Scales of Brain Folding

Cereb Cortex. 2020 Apr 29;bhaa086. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhaa086. Online ahead of print.


The signature folds of the human brain are formed through a complex and developmentally regulated process. In vitro and in silico models of this process demonstrate a random pattern of sulci and gyri, unlike the highly ordered and conserved structure seen in the human cortex. Here, we account for the large-scale pattern of cortical folding by combining advanced fetal magnetic resonance imaging with nonlinear diffeomorphic registration and volumetric analysis. Our analysis demonstrates that in utero brain growth follows a logistic curve, in the absence of an external volume constraint. The Sylvian fissure forms from interlobar folding, where separate lobes overgrow and close an existing subarachnoid space. In contrast, other large sulci, which are the ones represented in existing models, fold through an invagination of a flat surface, a mechanistically different process. Cortical folding is driven by multiple spatially and temporally different mechanisms; therefore regionally distinct biological process may be responsible for the global geometry of the adult brain.

Keywords: Sylvian fissure, nonlinear registration; brain folding; fetal MRI; gyrification.