The genetic architecture of human cortical folding

Sci Adv. 2021 Dec 17;7(51):eabj9446. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abj9446. Epub 2021 Dec 15.


The folding of the human cerebral cortex is a highly genetically regulated process that allows for a much larger surface area to fit into the cranial vault and optimizes functional organization. Sulcal depth is a robust yet understudied measure of localized folding, previously associated with multiple neurodevelopmental disorders. Here, we report the first genome-wide association study of sulcal depth. Through the multivariate omnibus statistical test (MOSTest) applied to vertex-wise measures from 33,748 U.K. Biobank participants (mean age, 64.3 years; 52.0% female), we identified 856 genome-wide significant loci (P < 5 × 10−8). Comparisons with cortical thickness and surface area indicated that sulcal depth has higher locus yield, heritability, and effective sample size. There was a large amount of genetic overlap between these traits, with gene-based analyses indicating strong associations with neurodevelopmental processes. Our findings demonstrate sulcal depth is a promising neuroimaging phenotype that may enhance our understanding of cortical morphology.