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What is a gyrus?: want to learn more about it?

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What is a gyrus?

Post central gyrus (coronal view)

A gyrus (plural: gyri) is a ridge on the surface of the brain. Each ridge is surrounded by fissures known as sulci (singular: sulcus). Gyri are unique structures that have an important evolutionary function; they increase the surface area of the brain up to an impressive 2000 centimeters squared.

This large surface area gives us better cognition without having to increase the size of the brain, which is of course trapped within the skull and hence limited by size.

There are many specific gyri which are important to the brain’s functions. For example, the superior temporal gyrus contains the Wernicke’s area, which is vital in the computation of language, while the precentral gyrus acts as the primary motor center of the brain.

As gyri are important brain structures, they have a great deal of clinical significance, with various abnormalities leading to disorders such as epilepsy.

Key facts about the gyri
Definition Ridge of grey matter on the surface of the brain surrounded by sulci (fissures).
Function To increase surface area of the brain and hence the cognitive capabilities
Important gyri

Frontal lobe: precentral gyrus, inferior frontal gyrus, anterior paracentral gyrus, orbital gyrus

Parietal lobe: postcentral gyrus, superior perietal lobule, inferior parietal lobule

Temporal lobe: temporal gyri (superior, middle, inferior, transverse), fusiform gyrus

Occipital lobe: occipital gyri (superior, inferior), cuneate gyrus, lingual gyrus

Insular lobe: short gyri, long gyri

Limbic lobe: cingulate gyrus, parahippocampal gyrus, hippocampal formation, subcallosal gyrus, parolfactory gyrus, preterminal gyrus

Anatomy

A gyrus is a ridge-like elevation found on the surface of the cerebral cortex. Gyri are surrounded by depressions known as sulci, and together they form the iconic folded surface of the brain. Gyri are made up of the gray matter of the cerebral cortex, which mainly consists of nerve cell bodies and dendrites. The size and layout of gyri vary from person to person, although there are certain important gyri that are found in everyone. However, even the exact size and location of these gyri can vary slightly between individuals.

Test yourself on ALL of the parts of the brain with our free brain diagrams and quizzes!

Important gyri and their functions

There are certain gyri in the brain that are of particular importance. These are outlined below:

  • Precentral gyrus - Found on the lateral surface of the the frontal lobe and acts as the primary motor area of the brain.
  • Inferior frontal gyrus - Found on the lateral surface of the frontal lobe, involved in speech production.
  • Anterior paracentral lobule - Found on the medial surface of the frontal lobe and is a continuation of the precentral gyrus.
  • Gyrus rectus/orbital gyri - Found on the inferior surface of the frontal lobe.
  • Postcentral gyrus - Found on the lateral surface of the parietal lobe, and acts as the primary somesthetic area of the brain.
  • Superior parietal lobule - Found on the lateral surface of the parietal lobe, involved in somatosensory activity.
  • Inferior parietal lobule - Found on the lateral surface of the parietal lobe, divided into the following:
    • Supramarginal gyrus (Involved in the integration of sensory information)
    • Angular gyrus (Involved in receiving visual information)

For more details about various gyri, take a look at the followng study units:

  • Posterior paracentral lobule precuneus - Found on the medial surface of the parietal lobe; simply a continuation of the postcentral gyrus.
  • Superior temporal gyrus - Found on the lateral surface of the temporal lobe, contains the Wernicke’s area which allows us to compute language.
  • Middle and inferior temporal gyri - Found on the lateral surface of the temporal lobe.
  • Transverse temporal gyri (of Heschl) - Found on the superior surface of the temporal lobe; forms the primary auditory cortex.
  • Fusiform gyrus - Found on the inferior surface of the temporal lobe; attaches to the parahippocampal gyrus.
  • Superior and inferior occipital gyri - Found on the lateral surface of the occipital lobe.
  • Cuneate gyrus (cuneus) - Found on the medial surface of the occipital lobe, separated by the calcarine fissure which borders the primary visual cortex.
  • Lingual gyrus - Found on the medial surface of the occipital lobe.
  • Short and long gyri - Found on the lateral surface of the insular lobe (insula), involved in the sensation of taste.
  • Cingulate gyrus - Found on the medial surface of the limbic lobe above the corpus callosum.
  • Parahippocampal gyrus - Found on the medial surface of the limbic lobe.
  • Hippocampal formation - Found on the medial surface of the limbic lobe; comprises the hippocampus, dentate gyrus, and subiculum.
  • Subcallosal, parolfactory, and preterminal gyri - Found on the medial surface of the limbic lobe; referred to as the subcallosal area.

What is a gyrus?: want to learn more about it?

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