HBP researchers provide 3D maps of four new brain regions that play a key role in cognitive function

Researchers at the Human Brain Project (HBP) have mapped four new regions of the human prefrontal cortex that play a key role in cognitive function. Two of the newly identified regions are relatively larger in females than in males.

The human dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is involved in cognitive control including attention selection, working memory, decision making, and action planning. Changes in this brain region are suspected to play a role in schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and bipolar disorder, making it an important research target. Researchers from Forschungszentrum Jülich and Heinrich-Heine University in Düsseldorf are now providing detailed 3D maps of four new regions in the brain region.

In order to determine the boundaries between brain regions, the researchers statistically analyzed the distribution of cells (cellular architecture) in 10 postmortem human brains. After reconstructing the regions plotted in 3D, the researchers superimposed maps of the 10 different brains and created probability maps that reflected how the localization and size of each region differed between individuals.

The high contrast between subjects has been a major challenge to previous attempts to map this brain region resulting in significant discrepancies in pre-existing maps and inconclusive information making it very difficult to understand the specific involvement of individual brain regions in different cognitive functions. The new probability maps take into account variance between individuals and can be directly superimposed with datasets from functional studies in order to directly correlate the structure and function of regions.

When comparing the brains of female and male tissue donors, the researchers found that the relative sizes of the two newly identified regions were significantly larger in females than in males’ brains. This finding may be related to gender differences in cognitive function and behavior as well as in the prevalence and symptoms of comorbid brain diseases.

Maps are integrated into Julich Brain Atlas which is openly accessible via EBRAINS.


Journal reference:

Bruno, A.; and others. (2022) Cellular architecture, inter-subject contrast, and 3D mapping of four new regions of the human prefrontal cortex. Frontiers in Neuroanatomy. doi.org/10.3389/fnana.2022.915877.

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