Parcellating Cerebral Cortex: How Invasive Animal Studies Inform Noninvasive Mapmaking in Humans

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The cerebral cortex in mammals contains a mosaic of cortical areas that differ in function, architecture, connectivity, and/or topographic organization. A combination of local connectivity (within-area microcircuitry) and long-distance (between-area) connectivity enables each area to perform a unique set of computations. Some areas also have characteristic within-area mesoscale organization, reflecting specialized representations of distinct types of information. Cortical areas interact with one another to form functional networks that mediate behavior, and each area may be a part of multiple, partially overlapping networks. Given their importance to the understanding of brain organization, mapping cortical areas across species is a major objective of systems neuroscience and has been a century-long challenge. Here, we review recent progress in multi-modal mapping of mouse and nonhuman primate cortex, mainly using invasive experimental methods. These studies also provide a neuroanatomical foundation for mapping human cerebral cortex using noninvasive neuroimaging, including a new map of human cortical areas that we generated using a semiautomated analysis of high-quality, multimodal neuroimaging data. We contrast our semiautomated approach to human multimodal cortical mapping with various extant fully automated human brain parcellations that are based on only a single imaging modality and offer suggestions on how to best advance the noninvasive brain parcellation field. We discuss the limitations as well as the strengths of current noninvasive methods of mapping brain function, architecture, connectivity, and topography and of current approaches to mapping the brain's functional networks. Van Essen and Glasser review recent progress in subdividing the cerebral cortex in mice and monkeys and explain how this work laid the foundation for a new multimodal human cortical map based on magnetic resonance imaging data from the Human Connectome Project.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)640-663
Number of pages24
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 22 2018


  • architectonics
  • brain
  • connectivity
  • cortical areas
  • function
  • networks
  • neuroanatomy
  • nonhuman primate
  • parcellation
  • topography


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