Surface-Based Computational Mapping of the Cerebral Cortex

David van Essen
Washington University in St.Louis - School of Medicine

Cerebral cortex is the dominant structure of the human brain, and deciphering its many functions represents one of the grand challenges of modern neuroscience. In humans, cerebral cortex is a highly convoluted sheet whose pattern of folds varies greatly from one individual to the next. The cortex is a mosaic of many anatomically and functionally distinct areas (~100 – 200 in total), each of which is variable in size and in its relationship to cortical folds. To cope with these basic facts and to capitalize on the enormous amounts of information obtained using noninvasive structural and functional neuroimaging methods, a variety of powerful visualization and analysis tools have been developed in recent years. This lecture will discuss some of these methods and illustrate how they have been applied to the study of normal adult and developing brains and to a variety of disease conditions. These methods include (i) cortical segmentation, surface reconstruction and inflation, which greatly aid visualization of complex convolutions; (ii) surface-based registration to compensate for individual variability; (iii) surface-based morphometry as a strategy for analyzing individual variability, interhemispheric asymmetries, and disease-related folding abnormalities; and (iv) interspecies surface-based registration as a strategy for evaluating homologies and gaining insights into the evolution of primate cerebral cortex. A final topic will be the expanding role of databases and data mining in helping neuroscientists make efficient use of the flood of experimental data on the human brain in health and disease.

Presentation (PowerPoint File)

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