In many species of Mammalia, the surface of the brain develops from a smooth structure to one with many fissures and folds, allowing for vast expansion of the surface area of the cortex. The importance of understanding what drives cortical folding extends beyond mere curiosity, as conditions such as preterm birth, intrauterine growth restriction, and fetal alcohol syndrome are associated with impaired folding in the infant and child. Despite being a key feature of brain development, the mechanisms driving cortical folding remain largely unknown. In this review we discuss the possible role of the subplate, a developmentally transient compartment, in directing region-dependent development leading to sulcal and gyral formation. We discuss the development of the subplate in species with lissencephalic and gyrencephalic cortices, the characteristics of the cells found in the subplate, and the possible presence of molecular cues that guide axons into, and out of, the overlying and multilayered cortex before the appearance of definitive cortical folds. An understanding of what drives cortical folding is likely to help in understanding the origins of abnormal folding patterns in clinical pathologies.
Rana, S., Shishegar, R., Quezada, S., Johnston, L., Walker, D., & Tolcos, M. (2019). The Subplate: A Potential Driver of Cortical Folding? Cerebral Cortex, 29(11), 4697-4708. https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhz003