J Neurosci. 2021 Jan 15:JN-RM-2362-20. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2362-20.2021. Online ahead of print.
Understanding the relationship between neuroanatomy and function in portions of cortex that perform functions largely specific to humans such as lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC) is of major interest in systems and cognitive neuroscience. When considering neuroanatomical-functional relationships in LPFC, shallow indentations in cortex known as tertiary sulci have been largely unexplored. Here, by implementing a multi-modal approach and manually defining 936 neuroanatomical structures in 72 hemispheres (in both males and females), we show that a subset of these overlooked tertiary sulci serve as a meso-scale link between microstructural (myelin content) and functional (network connectivity) properties of human LPFC in individual participants. For example, the posterior middle frontal sulcus (pmfs) is a tertiary sulcus with three components that differ in their myelin content, resting state connectivity profiles, and engagement across meta-analyses of 83 cognitive tasks. Further, generating microstructural profiles of myelin content across cortical depths for each pmfs component and the surrounding middle frontal gyrus (MFG) shows that both gyral and sulcal components of the MFG have greater myelin content in deeper compared to superficial layers and that the myelin content in superficial layers of the gyral components is greater than sulcal components. These findings support a classic, yet largely unconsidered theory that tertiary sulci may serve as landmarks in association cortices, as well as a modern cognitive neuroscience theory proposing a functional hierarchy in LPFC. As there is a growing need for computational tools that automatically define tertiary sulci throughout cortex, we share pmfs probabilistic sulcal maps with the field.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: Lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC) is critical for functions that are thought to be specific to humans compared to other mammals. However, relationships between fine-scale neuroanatomical structures largely specific to hominoid cortex and functional properties of LPFC remain elusive. Here, we show that these structures, which have been largely unexplored throughout history, surprisingly serve as markers for anatomical and functional organization in human LPFC. These findings have theoretical, methodological, developmental, and evolutionary implications for improved understanding of neuroanatomical-functional relationships not only in LPFC, but also in association cortices more broadly. Finally, these findings ignite new questions regarding how morphological features of these neglected neuroanatomical structures contribute to functions of association cortices that are critical for human-specific aspects of cognition.