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Keywords:

  • corpus callosum;
  • fractionator;
  • human anatomy;
  • quantification;
  • stereology

Abstract

Using the fractionator principle, the total number, density and diameter size of myelinated callosal fibers were estimated in the corpus callosum (CC) of 10 Danish males between 39 and 60 years of age. All sampled brains had been used in previous quantitative studies, for example, studies of neocortical neuron number, and were selected to determine whether the variability in the neocortical neuron number correlated with the total number of myelinated callosal fibers. Middle-aged males had an average of 138 × 106 (coefficient of variance; CV = 0.19) myelinated fibers, but did not show any correlation with the neocortical neuron number (= 0.25; = 0.49). The mean area of the CC was estimated to be 7.2 cm2 (CV = 0.17), and showed a significant correlation with the number of callosal fibers (= 0.69, = 0.041). Additionally, an overall density decline from the anterior to the posterior region of the CC was observed, with an inverse relationship between the distribution of large and small fibers along the callosal axis. This study suggests that many mechanisms are involved in the development and determination of axonal projections across the CC that cannot simply be explained by the neocortical neuron number. Further, a positive correlation between callosal fibers and the CC area verifies that callosal fibers are the factor responsible for CC size. Finally, the number of callosal fibers and their diameters are distributed along the CC in a specific pattern that reflects interactions with different brain regions.