Research ArticleNEUROSCIENCE

Shaping brain structure: Genetic and phylogenetic axes of macroscale organization of cortical thickness

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Science Advances  25 Sep 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 39, eabb3417
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb3417


The topology of the cerebral cortex has been proposed to provide an important source of constraint for the organization of cognition. In a sample of twins (n = 1113), we determined structural covariance of thickness to be organized along both a posterior-to-anterior and an inferior-to-superior axis. Both organizational axes were present when investigating the genetic correlation of cortical thickness, suggesting a strong genetic component in humans, and had a comparable organization in macaques, demonstrating they are phylogenetically conserved in primates. In both species, the inferior-superior dimension of cortical organization aligned with the predictions of dual-origin theory, and in humans, we found that the posterior-to-anterior axis related to a functional topography describing a continuum of functions from basic processes involved in perception and action to more abstract features of human cognition. Together, our study provides important insights into how functional and evolutionary patterns converge at the level of macroscale cortical structural organization.

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