René Westerhausen, Adrien Meguerditchian
The corpus callosum enables integration and coordination of cognitive processing between the cerebral hemispheres. In the aging human brain, these functions are affected by progressive axon and myelin deteriorations, reflected as atrophy of the midsagittal corpus callosum in old age. In non-human primates, these degenerative processes are less pronounced as previous morphometric studies on capuchin monkey, rhesus monkeys, and chimpanzees do not find old-age callosal atrophy. In the present study, we extend these previous findings by studying callosal development of the olive baboon (Papio anubis) across the lifespan and compare it to chimpanzee and human data. For this purpose, total relative (to forebrain volume) midsagittal area, subsectional area, and regional thickness of the corpus callosum were assessed in 91 male and female baboons using non-invasive MRI-based morphometry. The studied age range was 2.5–26.6 years and lifespan trajectories were fitted using general additive modelling. Relative area of the total and anterior corpus callosum showed a positive linear trajectory. That is, both measures increased slowly but continuously from childhood into old age, and no decline was observed in old age. Thus, comparable with all other non-human primates studied to-date, baboons do not show callosal atrophy in old age. This observation lends supports to the notion that atrophy of the corpus callosum is a unique characteristic of human brain aging.