Cerebral Cortex Volume 8B, 1990, pp 3-136

Why Does Cerebral Cortex Fissure and Fold?

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Abstract

The most striking, interesting, yet poorly understood gross morphological features of the cerebral hemispheres in mammals are the diverse and complex arrangements of their cortical gyri and sulci (Fig. 1). Among mammals, the spinal cord and brain-stem nuclei are morphologically quite similar, despite variations in size. However, during evolution, the cerebrum and cerebellum have undergone marked variations in size, shape, and convolutional complexity (Fig. 2). External morphological features of mammalian brains have long been utilized to judge not only the degree of phylogenetic development, but also the nature and level of complexity of brain functions. The great variety of living mammals exhibit a corresponding variety of brain shapes, sizes, and patterns of fissuration and convolution of the cerebral neocortex. The view has consistently been expressed that animals with brains having greater amounts of convoluted cerebral neocortex were more intelligent as well as perceptually and behaviorally more complex.