The Most Important 21 Pages In The Field of Neuroscience? Dr Korbinian Brodmann. The Man Who Mapped the Brain. Part 3 – The Precentral Region

Dr Korbinian Brodmann, German Neurologist, Frontpiece of ‘Localisation in the Cerebral Cortex’, 1909, Public Domain*

The Brain is a complex organ, responsible for the full gamete of our inner experiences whether these are our first thoughts on waking, the perception of a rainbow or the sharing of joy with others. Understanding the brain has been an almost unobtainable goal which many great scientists have striven for. One scientist who realised the immense complexity of the task set out to characterise the brain in a more limited way and in the process established one of the most successful maps of the brain which continues to be routinely used over 100 years later. His name was Dr Korbinian Brodmann. In the first part of this series, there was a brief look at the context of Brodmann’s landmark work ‘Brodmann’s Localisation in the Cerebral Cortex’. In the third part of the series we will take a closer look at the 21 pages of his book which relate to the special regions in the human Cerebral Cortex that Brodmann identified.

The central 21 pages of Brodmann’s work are contained within Chapter IV ‘Description of Individual Brain Maps’ in which he contrasts the brain maps of several species including humans. The second region he looks at is the Precentral region.

 Cytoarchitectonics of human brain according to Brodmann (1909), Public Domain*

Three drawings by Santiago Ramon y Cajal, taken from the book “Comparative study of the sensory areas of the human cortex”, pages 314, 361, and 363, Public Domain*

Left: Nissl-stained visual cortex Middle: Nissl-stained motor cortex Right: Golgi-stained cortex 

Medial surface of left cerebral hemisphere. Figure 727 from Gray’s Anatomy, Public Domain**

Brodmann divides the Precentral region into

1. Brodmann Area 4 – The Giant Pyramidal Area.

2. Brodmann Area 6 – The Agranular Frontal Area.

Both areas lacked an Inner Granular Layer – the fourth layer according to Meynert’s description of the Cerebral Cortex. The feature distinguishing between Areas 4 and 6 are the Betz cells. Brodmann states that the Precentral region extends past the Precentral Gyrus anteriorly as far as the Superior and Middle Frontal Gyri while posteriorly the Central Sulcus separates this region from Brodmann Area 3 (although there is individual variation in Central Sulcus depth of the demarcation).

Turning first to Brodmann Area 4, Brodmann describes this as passing along the Central Sulcus as well as being contained within the Precentral Gyrus and within part of the Paracentral Lobule. Brodmann also says that medially BA4 it is contained within the middle third of the Paracentral Lobule whilst laterally BA4 narrows on moving from Inferiorly (superiorly BA4 is described as occupying the width of the Precentral Gyrus). Brodmann describes a large individual variation in both the borders of BA4 and BA6 as well as the characteristics of the Betz cells. However he does state that the Betz cells decrease in size and number on moving inferiorly.

Regarding Brodmann Area 6, Brodmann states that BA4 could be classed as BA6 as it also lacks the Inner Granular Layer although as noted above, it lacks the Betz cells. BA6 like BA4 narrows inferiorly on the lateral Cortical surface. BA6 is contained within the frontal lobe region extending from the Sylvian fissure to the Callosomarginal Sulcus (now referred to as the Cingulate Sulcus). Brodmann identifies further details of BA6 according to the medial, lateral and inferior extent. Brodmann also challenges the subdivision of BA6 by his contemporary – Elliot Smith.



Brodmann’s Localisation in the Cerebral Cortex. 1909. Translated and Edited by Laurence J Garey. Springer. 2006.

*Public Domain in those countries where the Copyright term of the life of the author (Korbinian Brodmann 1868-1918) plus the additional country specific term has lapsed from Copyright at the time of writing

**Public Domain in those countries where the Copyright term of the life of the author plus the additional country specific term has lapsed from Copyright at the time of writing

An index of the TAWOP site can be found here and here. The page contains links to all of the articles in the blog in chronological order. Twitter: You can follow ‘The Amazing World of Psychiatry’ Twitter by clicking on this link. Podcast: You can listen to this post on Odiogo by clicking on this link (there may be a small delay between publishing of the blog article and the availability of the podcast). It is available for a limited period. TAWOP Channel: You can follow the TAWOP Channel on YouTube by clicking on this link. Responses: If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail Disclaimer: The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.


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