Sulcal pattern variation in extant human endocasts

Edwin J. de Jager*, Albert N. van Schoor, Jakobus W. Hoffman, Anna C. Oettlé, Caroline Fonta, Muriel Mescam, Laurent Risser, Amélie Beaudet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Our knowledge of human brain evolution primarily relies on the interpretation of palaeoneurological evidence. In this context, an endocast or replica of the inside of the bony braincase can be used to reconstruct a timeline of cerebral changes that occurred during human evolution, including changes in topographic extension and structural organisation of cortical areas. These changes can be tracked by identifying cerebral imprints, particularly cortical sulci. The description of these crucial landmarks in fossil endocasts is, however, challenging. High-resolution imaging techniques in palaeoneurology offer new opportunities for tracking detailed endocranial neural characteristics. In this study, we use high-resolution imaging techniques to document the variation in extant human endocranial sulcal patterns for subsequent use as a platform for comparison with the fossil record. We selected 20 extant human crania from the Pretoria Bone Collection (University of Pretoria, South Africa), which were detailed using X-ray microtomography at a spatial resolution ranging from 94 to 123 μm (isometric). We used Endex to extract, and Matlab to analyse the cortical imprints on the endocasts. We consistently identified superior, middle and inferior sulci on the frontal lobe; and superior and inferior sulci on the temporal lobe. We were able to label sulci bordering critical functional areas such as Broca's cap. Mapping the sulcal patterns on extant endocasts is a prerequisite for constructing an atlas which can be used for automatic sulci recognition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)803-810
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Anatomy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


  • brain cast
  • cerebral variation
  • human neuroanatomy
  • palaeoneurology
  • sulci detection


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