, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 59-71

The Role of the Corpus Callosum in Interhemispheric Transfer of Information: Excitation or Inhibition?

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Abstract

The corpus callosum is the major neural pathway that connects homologous cortical areas of the two cerebral hemispheres. The nature of how that interhemispheric connection is manifested is the topic of this review; specifically, does the corpus callosum serve to communicate an inhibitory or excitatory influence on the contralateral hemisphere? Several studies take the position that the corpus callosum provides the pathway through which a hemisphere or cortical area can inhibit the other hemisphere or homologous cortical area in order to facilitate optimal functional capacity. Other studies suggest that the corpus callosum integrates information across cerebral hemispheres and thus serves an excitatory function in interhemispheric communication. This review examines these two contrasting theories of interhemispheric communication. Studies of callosotomies, callosal agenesis, language disorders, theories of lateralization and hemispheric asymmetry, and comparative research are critically considered. The available research, no matter how limited, primarily supports the notion that the corpus callosum serves a predominantly excitatory function. There is evidence, however, to support both theories and the possibility remains that the corpus callosum can serve both an inhibitory and excitatory influence on the contralateral hemisphere.