Development of the corpus callosum in childhood, adolescence and early adulthood

Life Sci. 2002 Mar 8;70(16):1909-22. doi: 10.1016/s0024-3205(02)01492-3.


The corpus callosum (CC) is the major commissure connecting the cerebral hemispheres and there is evidence of its continuing development into young adulthood [Ann. Neurol. 34 (1993) 71]. Yet, little is known about changes in the size and tissue characteristics of its sub-regions. The sub-regions of the CC (genu, body, isthmus and splenium) are topographically organized to carry interhemispheric fibres representing heteromodal and unimodal cortical brain regions. Studies of the development of each of these sub-regions can therefore provide insights into the time course of brain development. We assessed age-related changes in the size and the signal intensities (SI) of the subregions of the corpus callosum in the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans of a cross-sectional sample of 109 healthy young individuals aged 7-32 years. Age was significantly positively correlated with the size of the callosal sub-regions (with the exception of the isthmus). On the other hand, there was an age-related decrease in SI across all the CC sub-regions. The rates of CC regional size increases appeared to be most pronounced in childhood. By contrast, SI decreases occurred during childhood and adolescence but reached an asymptote during young adulthood. Finally, the observed size and SI changes were similar across CC sub-regions. The observed increases in CC size in conjunction with the decreases in signal intensity reflect continued maturation of the structure from childhood through young adulthood. An increase in axonal size may underlie growth in the size of the CC during childhood. The continued decrease in the CC signal intensity during adolescence may in addition be related to ongoing maturation of the axonal cytoskeleton. CC maturational changes appeared synchronous across sub-regions suggesting parallel maturation of diverse brain regions during childhood and adolescence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Child
  • Corpus Callosum / anatomy & histology
  • Corpus Callosum / growth & development*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male