Recently, the NIH awarded a $500,000 grant to an associate professor of psychology at Trinity University. The grant will fund primate research in San Antonio, TX and Atlanta, GA. The corpus callosum, which connects the left and right cerebral hemispheres and facilitates interhemispheric communication, is the focus of the research.
The corpus callosum is believed to be fundamentally important to the emergence of higher cognitive functions in the brain. Differences in size of the corpus callosum have been linked to several neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders such as schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorder. (Collegenews.org)
Agenesis (complete or partial absence) of the corpus callosum (AgCC) is conservatively estimated to occur in one in 4,000 live births. Due to the rarity of the condition and the fact that diagnosis has become possible only with the advent of brain imaging, AgCC has been the subject of only limited study, and little information is available on how best to deal with it. (Source)
From Mind Brain Machine, Meet Dr. Lynn Paul: Parents of children with AgCC report that impaired social skills and lack of personal insight are the greatest hurdles in the children’s daily lives. Emotional immaturity, social incompetence, lack of social judgment and planning, and inability to communicate or recognize emotions makes socialization difficult. People with AgCC tend to prefer much younger friends and find conversation difficult to initiate or maintain. Additional barriers evident in AgCC are literal mindedness, difficulty understanding another person’s perspective, and limited capacity for nuanced empathy. Many people with AgCC have difficulty learning to plan or execute daily activities such as showering, doing homework, or paying bills. As a result of these challenges, people with AgCC may tend to have lives that are socially impoverished or characterized by conflict at home and work.
Kim Peek is one who had AgCC. He was sometimes referred to as Kimputer due to his remarkable memory. He was also considered a megasavant. The movie Rainman was inspired by him. I had the opportunity to attend a function where Kim and his father were present, and found them both to be remarkable.
The most current AgCC study reminded me of one of the college students who worked with our daughter during an intensive in-home program in the 1990's. She had been involved in study of measuring the corpus callosum from MRI images. One day I mentioned that I had MRI images of both my daughter and my husband on hand and she did make some interesting statements when looking at them, based on the study in which she had been involved. She was attending a college in Iowa at that time.
A study of autistic individuals back in 1997 detected a significantly smaller size of the body and posterior subregions of the corpus callosum in the autistic individuals.
While interesting as a possible cause of autistic like features, one can only wonder how we can mend the lack of divide between the right and left hemispheres!