The microarchitecture of functional regions in human cortex

One of the main goals of the CNL is to examine the microanatomical features of cortical tissue that support perception and cognition. This is easier said than done because the only way to presently measure cells in cortical tissue is in deceased individuals. Thus, in collaboration with Kalanit Grill-Spector, Karl Zilles and Katrin Amunts, we have spent many years developing tools to precisely align regions defined in individual living participants to histological slices from deceased individuals. These tools allow us to extract cytoarchitectonic profiles from functionally-defined regions and have allowed us to test longstanding hypotheses that different cellular structures of the brain perform distinct functions (which our results both partially support and partially refute, see Weiner et al., 2017). Additionally, by pairing neuroanatomical methods in living participants such as quantitative T1 with these cytoarchitectonic measures, we have garnered insight as to how microstructural changes in human cortex are coupled with developmental aspects of perception such as face processing. The CNL will continue this line of work with other regions of the brain and in other cortical systems. Eventually, the pipe dream is to determine the mathematical formula underlying the aspect of cognition that is supported by a particular microarchitectural feature (e.g. what does increased cell density in one area vs. another actually do for us to support cognition and what is the mathematical formula that represents that function?). See the Resources page for further explanation.

Top: Cytoarchitectonic areas and functional regions are defined using very different methods in deceased and living participants, respectively. Nevertheless, each methodology parcellates the brain into different areas. Interestingly, CoS-places (green; also known as the PPA) overlaps a cytoarchitectonically defined area referred to as FG3 (warm colors), while mFus-faces (red; also known as FFA-2) overlaps a different cytoarchitectonically defined area referred to as FG4 (warm colors). Bottom: Representative cytoarchitecture extracted from place-selective (green) and face-selective regions (red) from two participants. Images adapted from Weiner, Barnett, et al., 2017.

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