Your browser may not display this page as it is intended to be viewed.

DBBS Faculty Member
David Van Essen, Ph.D.
Anatomy and Neurobiology

Email  Website  Contact Info  More Publications 
Primate cerebral cortex: structure, function, connectivity, development, and evolution
The Van Essen lab uses neuroimaging approaches combined with novel methods of computerized brain mapping and neuroinformatics to explore the functional organization, connectivity, development, and evolution of cerebral cortex in humans and nonhuman primates.  The Human Connectome Project (HCP; involves a large-scale collaborative effort to chart long-distance connectivity and its variability in healthy adult humans.  Our contribution to the HCP includes the development and application of analysis methods for characterizing brain connectivity, and the development of a user-friendly platform for data mining of the HCP datasets that will be made freely available to the neuroscience community.

Our studies of cortical development involve a collaborative effort with pediatric neurologists (Drs. Terrie Inder and Jeff Neil) to characterize normal and abnormal patterns of cortical folding in preterm infants.  We also have characterized abnormalities in cortical folding in a variety of brain disorders, including Williams Syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, and ADHD.

Our interests in evolution focus on comparisons of cortical organization in monkeys, apes, and humans, using surface-based atlases and interspecies surface-based registration.  This approach enables objective evaluation of candidate homologies across species and quantitative assessments of cortical expansion during human evolution.

The explosion of information in the neurosciences demands fresh approaches to data sharing and data mining.  To this end, we have established the SumsDB database ( as a repository for many types of neuroimaging data.  This includes a large and freely accessible library of stereotaxic coordinates, representing summary results from thousands of fMRI, PET, and structural imaging studies.

Research Photos (Click to Enlarge)

Research Publications

Van Essen DC, Glasser MF, Dierker DL, Harwell J, Coalson T (2011). Parcellations and Hemispheric Asymmetries of Human Cerebral Cortex Analyzed on Surface-Based Atlases. Cereb Cortex. Nov 2. [Epub ahead of print] Full Article >

Glasser MF, Van Essen DC (2011 Aug 10). Mapping human cortical areas in vivo based on myelin content as revealed by T1- and T2-weighted MRI. J Neurosci. 31 (32): 11597-616. Full Article >

Hill J, Inder T, Neil J, Dierker D, Harwell J, Van Essen D (2010 Jul 20). Similar patterns of cortical expansion during human development and evolution. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 107 (29): 13135-40. Full Article >

Yarkoni T, Poldrack RA, Van Essen DC, Wager TD (2010 Nov). Cognitive neuroscience 2.0: building a cumulative science of human brain function. Trends Cogn Sci. 14 (11): 489-96. Full Article >

Nordahl CW, Dierker D, Mostafavi I, Schumann CM, Rivera SM, Amaral DG, Van Essen DC (2007 Oct 24). Cortical folding abnormalities in autism revealed by surface-based morphometry. J Neurosci. 27 (43): 11725-35. Full Article >

Van Essen DC, Dierker DL (2007 Oct 25). Surface-based and probabilistic atlases of primate cerebral cortex. Neuron. 56 (2): 209-25. Full Article >

Contact Info
David Van Essen, Ph.D.
Office Location: 203 East McDonnell Sci Bldg
Office Phone: 314-362-7043
Lab Phone: 747-2150
Fax: 747-3436