Universality, fractality and a new morphological syntax for the cerebral cortex - Bruno Mota

The next SISSA Colloquium will be held February 23rd at 16:30 in room 128-129

The next SISSA Colloquium will be held February 23rd at 16:30 in room 128-129, with a special lecture by Bruno Mota (Instituto de Física - Universidade Federal do RIo de Janeiro) with the title " Universality, fractality and a new morphological syntax for the cerebral cortex "


The mammalian cerebral cortex is a morphologically complex structure spanning a wide range of sizes and shapes across species. I will show that, in spite of all this diversity, cortical shape can be universally and explicitly expressed as the hierarchical composition of folded structures of different sizes. Using a new set of theory-inspired morphological variables that capture shape and size as functions of length scale, I show that for cortices of 11 different primate species, this composition process recapitulates in all cases a common scale-invariant morphometric trajectory. This indicates these cortices are approximations of a single archetypical fractal shape, differing solely on the range of length scales for which the approximation holds. These results suggest the existence of a universal gyrification mechanism operating on all scales, and that there is only a small number of effective degrees of freedom through which Darwinian natural selection can select cortical shapes. This new way of expressing morphology can be used to parametrize stages of cortical development and aging, and to characterize different conditions such as Zika-induced microcephaly and Alzheimer's. We thus hope that in the future this systematic approach may help elucidate the processes underlying cortical gyrification in health and disease.

Bruno Mota holds a master's degree in Physics from Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (2001) and a PhD in Physics from Centro Brasileiro de Pesquisas Físicas (2007). He is currently an adjunct professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. He has experience in two main areas: Astronomy, with emphasis in Cosmology, working on cosmic topology, lambda-cdm model, cosmic background radiation, and inflationary theory; and in physics applied to neurosciences, working on allometry, comparative neuroanatomy, neuronal networks, morphological models and cortical development.