The human corpus callosum exhibits substantial atrophy in old age, which is stronger than what would be predicted from parallel changes in overall brain anatomy. To date, however, it has not been conclusively established whether this accentuated decline represents a common feature of brain aging across species, or whether it is a specific characteristic of the aging human brain. In the present cross-sectional study, we address this question by comparing age-related difference in corpus callosum morphology of chimpanzees and humans. For this purpose, we measured total midsagittal area and regional thickness of the corpus callosum from T1-weighted MRI data from 213 chimpanzees, aged between 9 and 54 years. The results were compared with data drawn from a large-scale human samples which was age-range matched using two strategies: (a) matching by chronological age (human sample size: n = 562), or (b) matching by accounting for differences in longevity and various maturational events between the species (i.e., adjusted human age range: 13.6 to 80.9 years; n = 664). Using generalized additive modelling to fit and compare aging trajectories, we found significant differences between the two species. The chimpanzee aging trajectory compared to the human trajectory was characterized by a slower increase from adolescence to middle adulthood, and by a lack of substantial decline from middle to old adulthood, which, however, was present in humans. Thus, the accentuated decline of the corpus callosum found in aging humans, is not an universal characteristic of the aging brain, and appears to be human-specific.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience