Exploring the interplay between cellular development and mechanics in the developing human brain

Zarzor MS, Käßmair S, Steinmann P, Blümcke I, Budday S (2021)

Publication Type: Journal article, Original article

Publication year: 2021


Book Volume: 21

Article Number: e202100104

DOI: 10.1002/pamm.202100104

Open Access Link: https://doi.org/10.1002/pamm.202100104


The human brain has a complex structure on both cellular and organ scales. This structure is closely related to the brain's abilities and functions. Disruption of one of the biological processes occurring during brain development on the cellular scale may affect the cortical folding pattern of the brain on the organ scale. However, the link between disruptions in cellular brain development and associated cortical malformation remains largely unknown. From a mechanical perspective, the forces generated during development lead to mechanical instability and, eventually, the mergence of cortical folds. To fully understand mechanism underlying malformations of cortical development, it is key to consider both the events that occur on the cellular scale and the mechanical forces generated on the organ scale. Here we present a computational model describing cellular division and migration on the cellular scale, as well as growth and cortical folding on the tissue or organ scale, in a continuous way by a coupled finite growth and advection-diffusion model. We introduce the cell density as an independent field controlling the volumetric growth. Furthermore, we formulate a positive relation between cell density and cortical layer stiffness. This allows us to study the influence of the migration velocity, the cell diffusivity, the local stiffness, and the local connectivity of cells on the cortical folding process and mechanical properties during normal and abnormal brain development numerically. We show how an increase in the density of the neurons increases the layer's mechanical stiffness. Moreover, weWe validate our simulation results through the comparison with histological sections of the fetal human brain. The current model aims to be a first step towards providing a reliable platform to systematically evaluate the role of different cellular events on the cortical folding process and vice versa.

Authors with CRIS profile

How to cite


Zarzor, M.S., Käßmair, S., Steinmann, P., Blümcke, I., & Budday, S. (2021). Exploring the interplay between cellular development and mechanics in the developing human brain. Proceedings in Applied Mathematics and Mechanics, 21. https://doi.org/10.1002/pamm.202100104


Zarzor, Mohammad Saeed, et al. "Exploring the interplay between cellular development and mechanics in the developing human brain." Proceedings in Applied Mathematics and Mechanics 21 (2021).

BibTeX: Download