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In Anatomy, what is a Commissure?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2016
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The anatomical term “commissure” refers to a junction in the anatomy, a site where two things join. A number of different structures in the body may be referred to as commissures, with some of the most important examples being located inside the brain. The complex network of communication within the brain is enabled in part by several commissures which allow different parts of the brain to communicate with each other. Without these junctions, the brain would not be able to relay information nearly as quickly.

In the case of the brain, the two halves of the brain are divided by a deep groove known as the longitudinal fissure. The corpus callosum, a bundle of nerve fibers, spans this divide to facilitate communication between the hemispheres of the brain. This structure includes the anterior commissure. The brain also contains the posterior commissure, another network of nerves which is used to bridge the space between two areas of the brain so that they can signal each other.

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Likewise, the spinal cord has a structure known as the commissure which crosses between the sides of the spinal cord, creating a join. The bilateral symmetry of the body can be seen in many structures like the brain and spinal cord which come in halves even though people often think of them as solid and singular structures. Different halves have different functions, making bodily junctions important. When these junctions are severed, people can sometimes develop health problems as a result, although in structures like the brain, the remaining tissue may remap itself to compensate.

People also sometimes refer to the folds of the lips and eyes as commissures because they mark a point where two parts of the body are joining. A commissure of this nature can become a topic of interest for a physician because these folds sometimes develop irritation or attract infections, requiring treatment. Cracks and dry skin on the face, for example, often show up near the corners of the eyes and lips first.

In a surgical procedure known as a commissurotomy, the junction may be surgically severed or excised. This can be done to treat several different health issues, such as a microstomia or small mouth, which can be treated by cutting into the commissure at the corner of the lips to make the mouth wider. This procedure may be performed if someone has difficulty eating or speaking as a result of having an unusually small mouth.

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bythewell
Post 3

The idea of having a commissurotomy on my lips makes me cringe. It makes me think too much of what they do in some countries to women who they believe should be punished.

I remember seeing this in the movie "City of Joy" where they did it to one of the women. They cut the corners of her lips to leave a scar so that she would be considered damaged and ugly.

Although I was imagining someone doing this as some kind of cosmetic procedure.

When I looked it up, it is really only done when a child is born with a severely small mouth and needs the surgery to be able to eat normally. They have to try and get the lips to cover the new areas of the opening, so it's not a simple matter.

irontoenail
Post 2

@Iluviaporos - Well, I don't think those studies have gone to waste, regardless of whether they were made to study something that was not actually a fact. They would have learned quite a lot about how the brain communicates with itself in the course of their studies, and just general things about average brain anatomy.

And from what I've seen there are still significant differences. I know I've seen studies that show that trans-people (people who feel female, or male, but are in the wrong gendered body) have the same kind of corpus callosum as the gender they feel they are, leading them to conclude that there is a biological justification for this state.

In order for them to reach that conclusion there must be some differences there for them to see.

lluviaporos
Post 1

The corpus callosum is one of those things that they've claimed is different in men and women, and is responsible for the supposed differences in the ways they think.

It's supposed to be thicker in women, allowing greater interaction between the hemispheres of the brain. This is supposed to be the reason women at better at communication and have "female intuition".

However, a more recent study has shown that there is in fact no difference. That they might have thought there was because they didn't properly take into account how large the different people were that they studied.

I think it must be quite frustrating to find out that an assumption a lot of people have studied over the years turned out to be based on false data in the first place.

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