The human neocortex is organized radially into six layers which differ in their myelination and the density and arrangement of neuronal cells. This cortical cyto- and myeloarchitecture plays a central role in the anatomical and functional neuroanatomy but is primarily accessible through invasive histology only. To overcome this limitation, several non-invasive MRI approaches have been, and are being, developed to resolve the anatomical cortical layers. As a result, recent studies on large populations and structure-function relationships at the laminar level became possible. Early proof-of-concept studies targeted conspicuous laminar structures such as the stria of Gennari in the primary visual cortex. Recent work characterized the laminar structure outside the visual cortex, investigated the relationship between laminar structure and function, and demonstrated layer-specific maturation effects. This paper reviews the methods and in-vivo MRI studies on the anatomical layers in the human cortex based on conventional and quantitative MRI (excluding diffusion imaging). A focus is on the related challenges, promises and potential future developments. The rapid development of MRI scanners, motion correction techniques, analysis methods and biophysical modeling promise to overcome the challenges of spatial resolution, precision and specificity of systematic imaging of cortical laminae.
- Journal Article