Neuroimaging genomics as a window into the evolution of human sulcal organization

Goltermann*, O., Alagöz*, G., Molz, B., & Fisher, S. E. (2024). Neuroimaging genomics as a window into the evolution of human sulcal organization. Cerebral Cortex, 34(3): bhae078. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhae078.
* Ole Goltermann and Gökberk Alagöz contributed equally.
Primate brain evolution has involved prominent expansions of the cerebral cortex, with largest effects observed in the human lineage. Such expansions were accompanied by fine-grained anatomical alterations, including increased cortical folding. However, the molecular bases of evolutionary alterations in human sulcal organization are not yet well understood. Here, we integrated data from recently completed large-scale neuroimaging genetic analyses with annotations of the human genome relevant to various periods and events in our evolutionary history. These analyses identified single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) heritability enrichments in fetal brain human-gained enhancer (HGE) elements for a number of sulcal structures, including the central sulcus, which is implicated in human hand dexterity. We zeroed in on a genomic region that harbors DNA variants associated with left central sulcus shape, an HGE element, and genetic loci involved in neurogenesis including ZIC4, to illustrate the value of this approach for probing the complex factors contributing to human sulcal evolution.
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