Anatomical variability of the lateral frontal lobe surface: Implication for intersubject variability in language neuroimaging

Heike Juch, Ivan Zimine, Mohamed L. Seghier, François Lazeyras, Jean H.D. Fasel

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69 Scopus citations


The lateral surface of the frontal lobe shows functional activation in a large number of language related tasks. Group analyses, however, demonstrate remarkable intersubject variability of activation. There are different sources for functional variability, anatomical variability being considered as one of them. The aim of the present study therefore was to qualitatively and quantitatively investigate the anatomical variability of the lateral frontal lobe surface and to search for reliable and stable landmarks connected to language functions. MRIs of 23 healthy right-handed subjects were investigated using the publicly available software "Anatomist/BrainVISA". After standardization of the brains (SPM) and sulci identification, the most frequent pattern was determined and the variance of selected landmarks calculated. The variability of the lateral frontal lobe surface is remarkable, particularly in the prefrontal region. Relatively stable landmarks were selected as follows: (1) connection between the superior frontal sulcus (SFS) and the superior precentral sulcus (SPCS); (2) connection between the inferior frontal sulcus (IFS) and the inferior precentral sulcus (IPCS); (3) inferior end of the precentral sulcus (PCS); and (4) origin of the ascending ramus (AscR) of the Sylvian fissure (SYF). The variability (standard deviation) of the spatial coordinates along the 3 axis of these landmarks after normalization ranged from 2.5 to 5.7 mm. The present study demonstrates that intersubject variability of selected landmarks of the frontal lobe surface remains notable even after spatial normalization of the brains. These results support the concept that anatomical variability is a relevant source of functional variability. We therefore suggest to express functional activation in relation to landmarks obtained from individual anatomy. This approach may contribute to a better analysis of the differences between individuals.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)504-514
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - 15 Jan 2005


  • Anatomical variability
  • Broca's area
  • Cerebral sulci
  • Frontal lobe
  • Functional variability
  • Language


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