Mapping the superficial morphology of the occipital lobe: proposal of a universal nomenclature for clinical and anatomical use


The superficial anatomy of the occipital lobe has been described as irregular and highly complex. This notion mainly arises from the variability of the regional sulco-gyral architecture. Our aim was to investigate the prevalence, morphology, and correlative anatomy of the sulci and gyri of the occipital region in cadaveric specimens and to summarize the nomenclature used in the literature to describe these structures. To this end, 33 normal, adult, formalin-fixed hemispheres were studied. In addition, a review of the relevant literature was conducted with the aim to compare our findings with data from previous studies. Hence, in the lateral occipital surface, we recorded the lateral occipital sulcus and the intraoccipital sulcus in 100%, the anterior occipital sulcus in 24%, and the inferior occipital sulcus in 15% of cases. In the area of the occipital pole, we found the transverse occipital sulcus in 88% of cases, the lunate sulcus in 64%, the occipitopolar sulcus in 24%, and the retrocalcarine sulcus in 12% of specimens. In the medial occipital surface, the calcarine fissure and parieto-occipital sulcus were always present. Finally, the basal occipital surface was always indented by the posterior occipitotemporal and posterior collateral sulci. A sulcus not previously described in the literature was identified on the supero-lateral aspect of the occipital surface in 85% of cases. We named this sulcus “marginal occipital sulcus” after its specific topography. In this study, we offer a clear description of the occipital surface anatomy and further propose a standardized taxonomy for clinical and anatomical use.

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Author contributions to the study and manuscript preparation include the following. Conception and design: Koutsarnakis. Acquisition of data: Drosos, Koutsarnakis, Komaitis. Analysis and interpretation of data: Komaitis, Koutsarnakis, Drosos, Kalyvas, Skandalakis. Drafting the article: Komaitis, Koutsarnakis, Kalyvas. Critically revising the article: Koutsarnakis, Kalyvas, Komaitis, Kalamatianos, Liakos, Stranjalis. Reviewed submitted version of manuscript: All authors. Administrative technical, material support: Stranjalis. Study supervision: Koutsarnakis.

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Correspondence to Spyridon Komaitis.

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Koutsarnakis, C., Komaitis, S., Drosos, E. et al. Mapping the superficial morphology of the occipital lobe: proposal of a universal nomenclature for clinical and anatomical use. Neurosurg Rev 44, 335–350 (2021).

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  • Occipital surface anatomy
  • Occipital lobe
  • Sulci
  • Gyri
  • Brain anatomy