Fetal Neonatal Neuroimaging and Developmental Science Center, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MA 02215, USA; Division of Newborn Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA; Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA. Electronic address: [Email]
Spatial distribution and specific geometric and topological patterning of early sulcal folds have been hypothesized to be under stronger genetic control and are more associated with optimal organization of cortical functional areas and their white matter connections, compared to later developing sulci. Several previous studies of sulcal pit (putative first sulcal fold) distribution and sulcal pattern analyses using graph structures have provided evidence of the importance of sulcal pits and patterns as remarkable anatomical features closely related to human brain function, suggesting additional insights concerning the anatomical and functional development of the human brain. Recently, early sulcal folding patterns have been observed in healthy fetuses and fetuses with brain abnormalities such as polymicrogyria and agenesis of corpus callosum. Graph-based quantitative sulcal pattern analysis has shown high sensitivity in detecting emerging subtle abnormalities in cerebral cortical growth in early fetal stages that are difficult to detect via qualitative visual assessment or using traditional cortical measures such as gyrification index and curvature. It has proven effective for characterizing genetically influenced early cortical folding development. Future studies will be aimed at better understanding a comprehensive map of spatio-temporal dynamics of fetal cortical folding in a large longitudinal cohort in order to examine individual clinical fetal MRIs and predict postnatal neurodevelopmental outcomes from early fetal life.