The corpus callosum, the other great forebrain commissures, and the septum pellucidum: anatomy, development, and malformation

Neuroradiology. 2010 Jun;52(6):447-77. doi: 10.1007/s00234-010-0696-3. Epub 2010 Apr 27.


There are three telencephalic commissures which are paleocortical (the anterior commissure), archicortical (the hippocampal commissure), and neocortical. In non-placental mammals, the neocortical commissural fibers cross the midline together with the anterior and possibly the hippocampal commissure, across the lamina reuniens (joining plate) in the upper part of the lamina terminalis. In placental mammals, a phylogenetically new feature emerged, which is the corpus callosum: it results from an interhemispheric fusion line with specialized groups of mildline glial cells channeling the commissural axons through the interhemispheric meninges toward the contralateral hemispheres. This concerns the frontal lobe mainly however: commissural fibers from the temporo-occipital neocortex still use the anterior commissure to cross, and the posterior occipito-parietal fibers use the hippocampal commissure, forming the splenium in the process. The anterior callosum and the splenium fuse secondarily to form the complete commissural plate. Given the complexity of the processes involved, commissural ageneses are many and usually associated with other diverse defects. They may be due to a failure of the white matter to develop or to the commissural neurons to form or to migrate, to a global failure of the midline crossing processes or to a selective failure of commissuration affecting specific commissural sites (anterior or hippocampal commissures, anterior callosum), or specific sets of commissural axons (paleocortical, hippocampal, neocortical commissural axons). Severe hemispheric dysplasia may prevent the axons from reaching the midline on one or both sides. Besides the intrinsically neural defects, midline meningeal factors may prevent the commissuration as well (interhemispheric cysts or lipoma). As a consequence, commissural agenesis is a malformative feature, not a malformation by itself. Good knowledge of the modern embryological data may allow for a good understanding of a specific pattern in a given individual patient, paving the way for better clinical correlation and genetic counseling.

MeSH terms

  • Agenesis of Corpus Callosum*
  • Corpus Callosum / embryology
  • Corpus Callosum / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Anatomic
  • Prosencephalon / abnormalities*
  • Prosencephalon / embryology
  • Prosencephalon / pathology*
  • Septum Pellucidum / abnormalities*
  • Septum Pellucidum / embryology
  • Septum Pellucidum / pathology*