The corpus callosum changes structurally throughout life, but most dramatically during childhood and adolescence. Even so, existing studies of callosal development tend to use parcellation schemes that may not capture the complex spatial profile of anatomical changes. Thus, more detailed mapping of callosal growth processes is desirable to create a normative reference. This will help to relate and interpret other structural, functional, and behavioral measurements, both from healthy subjects and pediatric patients. We applied computational surface-based mesh-modeling methods to analyze callosal morphology at extremely high spatial resolution. We mapped callosal development and explored sex differences in a large and well-matched sample of healthy children and adolescents (n=190) aged 5 to 18 years. Except for the rostrum in females, callosal thickness increased across the whole surface, with sex- and region-specific rates of growth, and also shrinkage at times. The temporally distinct changes in callosal thickness are likely to be a consequence of varying degrees of axonal myelination, redirection, and pruning. Alternating phases of callosal growth and shrinkage may reflect a permanent adjustment and fine-tuning of fibers connecting homologous cortical areas during childhood and adolescence. Our findings emphasize the importance of taking into account sex differences in future studies, as existing developmental effects might remain disguised (or biased towards the effect of the dominant sex in unbalanced statistical designs) when pooling male and female samples.
Keywords: Age, Female, Isthmus, Male, MRI, Sex, Splenium