Geodesic theory of long association fibers arrangement in the human fetal cortex

Cereb Cortex. 2023 Aug 23;33(17):9778-9786. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhad243.


Association fibers connect different areas of the cerebral cortex over long distances and integrate information to achieve higher brain functions, particularly in humans. Prototyped association fibers are developed to the respective tangential direction throughout the cerebral hemispheres along the deepest border of the subplate during the fetal period. However, how guidance to remote areas is achieved is not known. Because the subplate is located below the cortical surface, the tangential direction of the fibers may be biased by the curved surface geometry due to Sylvian fissure and cortical poles. The fiber length can be minimized if the tracts follow the shortest paths (geodesics) of the curved surface. Here, we propose and examine a theory that geodesics guide the tangential direction of long association fibers by analyzing how geodesics are spatially distributed on the fetal human brains. We found that the geodesics were dense on the saddle-shaped surface of the perisylvian region and sparse on the dome-shaped cortical poles. The geodesics corresponded with the arrangement of five typical association fibers, supporting the theory. Thus, the geodesic theory provides directional guidance information for wiring remote areas and suggests that long association fibers emerge from minimizing their tangential length in fetal brains.

Keywords: association fibers; human fetal brain; shortest path (geodesic); subplate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Cortex* / anatomy & histology
  • Fetus
  • Humans