Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum


Despite the bizarre name, Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum is not a spell from the magical world of Harry Potter; it is a rare medical condition. Before delving deep into this puzzling condition, let us first understand what the Corpus Callosum is. It is a group of nerves containing almost 200 million axons, and is responsible for the communication between the two hemispheres of the brain; for example, transferring motor and sensory information.

The importance of the Corpus Callosum was first discovered in the 1920s by Russian physiologist Konstantin M. Bykov; he cut off the Corpus Callosum of dogs and studied the effects. His work came way before the Nobel Laureate Roger Sperry and his student Ronald Myers worked on the same area in the 1950s. They experimented with cats and noticed that when the Corpus Callosum is severed, the cat acts as if it has two separate brains. For example, if the cat learns to make a certain response when it has its right eye open, it does not make the same response when the left eye is open. In short, the information the cat acquired when its right eye was open did not transfer to the other side of the brain. The two scientists deduced that the brain has two separate systems of processing information.

In the above-mentioned cases, scientists have purposefully severed the Corpus Callosum of animals; however, some human beings are born with partial or no Corpus Callosum at all. This takes us to the title of this article “Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum”, where agenesis means “absence of” or “failed development of a body part”. Let us find out how the absence of the Corpus Callosum affects patients.

The effects range from seizures, problems with coordination, to delay of motor functions in children, like sitting and standing. In addition to physical impairment, some social difficulties can face the person with partial or complete loss of the Corpus Callosum. Patients fail to see points of view of other people; they also have problems with understanding facial expressions and idioms.

So, what are the causes of this rare condition? Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum occurs before birth. Failure to develop this important structure can result from several reasons such as chromosomal defects, viral infections transferred from the mother to her baby, exposure to toxins, and the presence of cysts that affect the development of the brain.

Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum can easily be diagnosed through Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or High Resolution Ultrasound. Unfortunately, there is no cure to restore the Corpus Callosum. Yet, there are treatments that address the symptoms, such as controlling the seizures and programs that help with speech development.

The brain is a mysterious territory, and scientists are treading it carefully. With time, I believe they will find out more about the Corpus Callosum, the role it plays, and how to treat individuals without one.


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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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