Recent studies have suggested widespread involvement of the cerebral regions other than the primary motor cortex in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. To investigate atrophy of the corpus callosum as a measure of cerebral pathology, we studied 25 right-handed patients with sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis using magnetic resonance imaging. Five patients had cognitive decline or emotional and personality changes. The ratios of mid-sagittal corpus callosum areas to the midline internal skull surface area on T1-weighted images were analysed. Compared with 25 age- and sex-matched right-handed control subjects, the patients had significantly decreased callosal/skull area ratio, with anterior predominance of the degree of atrophy. The patients with cognitive decline or psychiatric symptoms had substantial atrophy of the anterior fourth of the corpus callosum. These findings suggest that atrophy of the corpus callosum, especially in the anterior half, is present in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and that severe atrophy in the anterior fourth is associated with cognitive decline and psychiatric symptoms. Callosal atrophy may reflect the widespread distribution of pathological changes in the cerebral cortex, which are accentuated in the frontal cortex.