Abstract

Interpersonal communication via the auditory modality is fundamental to normal human development. One of the prominent anatomical specializations supporting this communication is the transverse gyrus of Heschl on the superior surface of the temporal lobe. This gyrus frequently appears duplicated, either by a sulcus indenting the crown of an initially single gyrus (common stem), or by a complete posterior duplication. The frequency of these duplications has been reported to be elevated in populations with learning disabilities and genetic anomalies. The significance of this observation is unclear, however, due to conflicting reports of the base rate of duplication and the location of relevant sulcal landmarks. In this study we report the variation in frequency and location of the sulcal boundaries of Heschl's gyrus in volumetric magnetic resonance imaging scans of 105 normal controls aged 5-65. The major results were as follows: (i) duplications were unstable--the frequency of duplication ranged from 20 to 60% depending on distance from the midline; (ii) common stem duplications were more frequent than posterior duplications, particularly in the right hemisphere. Intra- and interindividual instability in sulcal landmarks pose serious obstacles to the attempt to map behavioral function onto the brain. Novel methods for dealing with structural variation are needed to facilitate the development of valid mapping techniques.