On the growth and form of cortical convolutions
T. Tallinen, J.Y. Chung, F. Rousseau, N. Girard, J. Lefèvre, and L. Mahadevan, Nature Physics , 12, 588-93, 2016.
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The rapid growth of the human cortex during development is accompanied by the folding of the brain into a highly convoluted structure1,2,3. Recent studies have focused on the genetic and cellular regulation of cortical growth4,5,6,7,8, but understanding the formation of the gyral and sulcal convolutions also requires consideration of the geometry and physical shaping of the growing brain9,10,11,12,13,14,15. To study this, we use magnetic resonance images to build a 3D-printed layered gel mimic of the developing smooth fetal brain; when immersed in a solvent, the outer layer swells relative to the core, mimicking cortical growth. This relative growth puts the outer layer into mechanical compression and leads to sulci and gyri similar to those in fetal brains. Starting with the same initial geometry, we also build numerical simulations of the brain modelled as a soft tissue with a growing cortex, and show that this also produces the characteristic patterns of convolutions over a realistic developmental course. All together, our results show that although many molecular determinants control the tangential expansion of the cortex, the size, shape, placement and orientation of the folds arise through iterations and variations of an elementary mechanical instability modulated by early fetal brain geometry.