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Concept: Lateralization of brain function


Lateralized brain regions subserve functions such as language and visuospatial processing. It has been conjectured that individuals may be left-brain dominant or right-brain dominant based on personality and cognitive style, but neuroimaging data has not provided clear evidence whether such phenotypic differences in the strength of left-dominant or right-dominant networks exist. We evaluated whether strongly lateralized connections covaried within the same individuals. Data were analyzed from publicly available resting state scans for 1011 individuals between the ages of 7 and 29. For each subject, functional lateralization was measured for each pair of 7266 regions covering the gray matter at 5-mm resolution as a difference in correlation before and after inverting images across the midsagittal plane. The difference in gray matter density between homotopic coordinates was used as a regressor to reduce the effect of structural asymmetries on functional lateralization. Nine left- and 11 right-lateralized hubs were identified as peaks in the degree map from the graph of significantly lateralized connections. The left-lateralized hubs included regions from the default mode network (medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, and temporoparietal junction) and language regions (e.g., Broca Area and Wernicke Area), whereas the right-lateralized hubs included regions from the attention control network (e.g., lateral intraparietal sulcus, anterior insula, area MT, and frontal eye fields). Left- and right-lateralized hubs formed two separable networks of mutually lateralized regions. Connections involving only left- or only right-lateralized hubs showed positive correlation across subjects, but only for connections sharing a node. Lateralization of brain connections appears to be a local rather than global property of brain networks, and our data are not consistent with a whole-brain phenotype of greater “left-brained” or greater “right-brained” network strength across individuals. Small increases in lateralization with age were seen, but no differences in gender were observed.

Concepts: Brain, Human brain, Cerebrum, Wernicke's area, Limbic system, Frontal lobe, Brodmann area, Lateralization of brain function


Asymmetry in motor patterns is present in a wide variety of animals. Many lateralized behaviors seem to depend on brain asymmetry, as it is the case of different tasks associated to food handling by several bird and mammal species. Here, we analyzed asymmetry in handling behavior of pine cones by red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris). Red squirrels devote most of their daily activity to feeding, thus this species constitutes an appropriate model for studying asymmetry in food processing. We aimed to explore 1) the potential lateralization in handling of pine cones by squirrels, 2) the dominant pattern for this behavior (left- vs. right-handed), and 3) whether this pattern varies among populations and depending on the pine tree species available. Results revealed that red squirrels handle pine cones in an asymmetrical way, and that direction of asymmetry varies among populations and seems to be determined more by local influences rather than by the pine tree species.

Concepts: Mammal, Pinophyta, Standard Model, Pine, Conifer cone, Lateralization of brain function, Eastern Gray Squirrel, Tree squirrel


Handedness and brain asymmetry are widely regarded as unique to humans, and associated with complementary functions such as a left-brain specialization for language and logic and a right-brain specialization for creativity and intuition. In fact, asymmetries are widespread among animals, and support the gradual evolution of asymmetrical functions such as language and tool use. Handedness and brain asymmetry are inborn and under partial genetic control, although the gene or genes responsible are not well established. Cognitive and emotional difficulties are sometimes associated with departures from the “norm” of right-handedness and left-brain language dominance, more often with the absence of these asymmetries than their reversal.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Allele, Human brain, Cognition, Ambidexterity, Lateralization of brain function, Brain asymmetry


Hemispheric lateralization for language production and its relationships with manual preference and manual preference strength were studied in a sample of 297 subjects, including 153 left-handers (LH). A hemispheric functional lateralization index (HFLI) for language was derived from fMRI acquired during a covert sentence generation task as compared with a covert word list recitation. The multimodal HFLI distribution was optimally modeled using a mixture of 3 and 4 Gaussian functions in right-handers (RH) and LH, respectively. Gaussian function parameters helped to define 3 types of language hemispheric lateralization, namely “Typical” (left hemisphere dominance with clear positive HFLI values, 88% of RH, 78% of LH), “Ambilateral” (no dominant hemisphere with HFLI values close to 0, 12% of RH, 15% of LH) and “Strongly-atypical” (right-hemisphere dominance with clear negative HFLI values, 7% of LH). Concordance between dominant hemispheres for hand and for language did not exceed chance level, and most of the association between handedness and language lateralization was explained by the fact that all Strongly-atypical individuals were left-handed. Similarly, most of the relationship between language lateralization and manual preference strength was explained by the fact that Strongly-atypical individuals exhibited a strong preference for their left hand. These results indicate that concordance of hemispheric dominance for hand and for language occurs barely above the chance level, except in a group of rare individuals (less than 1% in the general population) who exhibit strong right hemisphere dominance for both language and their preferred hand. They call for a revisit of models hypothesizing common determinants for handedness and for language dominance.

Concepts: Left-handedness, Handedness, Ambidexterity, Michael Gazzaniga, Roger Wolcott Sperry, Right-handedness, Lateralization of brain function, Popular psychology


The literature about the lateralization of facial emotion perception according to valence (positive, negative) is conflicting; investigating the underlying processes may shed light on why some studies show right-hemisphere dominance across valence and other studies demonstrate hemispheric differences according to valence. This is the first clinical study to examine whether the use of configural and featural cues underlies hemispheric differences in affective face perception. Right brain-damaged (RBD; n = 17), left brain-damaged (LBD; n = 17) and healthy control (HC; n = 34) participants completed an affective face discrimination task that tested configural processing using whole faces and featural processing using partial faces. No group differences in expression perception according to valence or processing strategy were found. Across emotions, the RBD group was less accurate than the HC group in discriminating whole faces, whilst the RBD and LBD groups were less accurate than HCs in discriminating partial faces. This suggests that the right hemisphere processes facial expressions from configural and featural information, whereas the left hemisphere relies more heavily on featural facial information.

Concepts: Psychology, Left-wing politics, Right-wing politics, Emotion, Face, Political spectrum, French Revolution, Lateralization of brain function


Human performance at categorizing natural visual images surpasses automatic algorithms, but how and when this function arises and develops remain unanswered. We recorded scalp electrical brain activity in 4-6 months infants viewing images of objects in their natural background at a rapid rate of 6 images/second (6 Hz). Widely variable face images appearing every 5 stimuli generate an electrophysiological response over the right hemisphere exactly at 1.2 Hz (6 Hz/5). This face-selective response is absent for phase-scrambled images and therefore not due to low-level information. These findings indicate that right lateralized face-selective processes emerge well before reading acquisition in the infant brain, which can perform figure-ground segregation and generalize face-selective responses across changes in size, viewpoint, illumination as well as expression, age and gender. These observations made with a highly sensitive and objective approach open an avenue for clarifying the developmental course of natural image categorization in the human brain.

Concepts: Nervous system, Brain, Human brain, Cerebral cortex, Electroencephalography, Cerebellum, Magnetoencephalography, Lateralization of brain function


Lateralized behaviors benefit individuals by increasing task efficiency in foraging and anti-predator behaviors [1-4]. The conventional lateralization paradigm suggests individuals are left or right lateralized, although the direction of this laterality can vary for different tasks (e.g. foraging or predator inspection/avoidance). By fitting tri-axial movement sensors to blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus), and by recording the direction and size of their rolls during lunge feeding events, we show how these animals differ from such a paradigm. The strength and direction of individuals' lateralization were related to where and how the whales were feeding in the water column. Smaller rolls (≤180°) predominantly occurred at depth (>70 m), with whales being more likely to rotate clockwise around their longest axis (right lateralized). Larger rolls (>180°), conversely, occurred more often at shallower depths (<70 m) and were more likely to be performed anti-clockwise (left lateralized). More acrobatic rolls are typically used to target small, less dense krill patches near the water's surface [5,6], and we posit that the specialization of lateralized feeding strategies may enhance foraging efficiency in environments with heterogeneous prey distributions.

Concepts: Predation, Task, Humpback whale, Clockwise, Lateralization of brain function, Whale song, Fin whale, Blue whale


According to the Geschwind-Galaburda theory of cerebral lateralization, high intrauterine testosterone levels delay left brain hemisphere maturation and thus promote left-handedness. Human circulating testosterone levels are higher in the male fetus and also vary with length of photoperiod. Therefore, a higher prevalence of left-handedness, coupled with seasonal anisotropy (i.e., a non-uniform distribution of handedness across birth months or seasons), may be expected among men. Prior studies yielded inconsistent evidence for seasonal anisotropy and suffered from confounding and a number of shortcomings affecting statistical power. This study examined hand preference and associations of handedness with sex, age, and season of birth in independent discovery (n = 7658) and replication (n = 5062) samples from Central Europe with latent class analysis (LCA). We found clear evidence of a surplus of left-handed men born during the period November-January, which is consistent with predictions from the Geschwind-Galaburda theory. Moreover, seasonal anisotropy fully accounted for the higher prevalence of left-handedness among men, relative to women. Implications of these findings with regard to seasonal anisotropy research and handedness assessment and classification are discussed.

Concepts: Left-handedness, Handedness, Ambidexterity, Right-handedness, Lateralization of brain function


It has been known for many years that hand preference is associated with cerebral lateralisation for language, but the relationship is weak and indirect. It has been suggested that quantitative measures of differential hand skill or reaching preference may provide more valid measures than traditional inventories, but to date these have not been validated against direct measures of cerebral lateralisation. We investigated the associations of three different handedness assessments; 1) a hand preference inventory, 2) a measure of relative hand skill, and 3) performance on a reaching task; with cerebral lateralisation for language function as derived from functional transcranial Doppler ultrasound during a language production task, in a group of 57 typically developing children aged from 6 to 16 years. Significant correlations between cerebral lateralisation for language production and handedness were found for a short version of the inventory and for performance on the reaching task. However, confidence intervals for the correlations overlapped and no one measure emerged as clearly superior to the others. The best handedness measures accounted for only 8-16% of the variance in cerebral lateralisation. These findings indicate that researchers should not rely on handedness as an indicator of cerebral lateralisation for language. They also imply that lateralisation of language and motor functions in the human brain show considerable independence from one another.

Concepts: Brain, Measurement, Human brain, Cerebral cortex, Medical ultrasonography, Normal distribution, Ambidexterity, Lateralization of brain function


The role of the right hemisphere in aphasia recovery after left hemisphere damage remains unclear. Increased activation of the right hemisphere has been observed after left hemisphere damage. This may simply reflect a release from transcallosal inhibition that does not contribute to language functions. Alternatively, the right hemisphere may actively contribute to language functions by supporting disrupted processing in the left hemisphere via interhemispheric connections. To test this hypothesis, we applied off-line continuous theta burst stimulation (cTBS) over the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) in healthy volunteers, then used functional MRI to investigate acute changes in effective connectivity between the left and right hemispheres during repetition of auditory and visual words and pseudowords. In separate sessions, we applied cTBS over the left anterior IFG (aIFG) or posterior IFG (pIFG) to test the anatomic specificity of the effects of cTBS on speech processing. Compared with cTBS over the aIFG, cTBS over the pIFG suppressed activity in the left pIFG and increased activity in the right pIFG during pseudoword vs. word repetition in both modalities. This effect was associated with a stronger facilitatory drive from the right pIFG to the left pIFG during pseudoword repetition. Critically, response became faster as the influence of the right pIFG on left pIFG increased, indicating that homologous areas in the right hemisphere actively contribute to language function after a focal left hemisphere lesion. Our findings lend further support to the notion that increased activation of homologous right hemisphere areas supports aphasia recovery after left hemisphere damage.

Concepts: Left-wing politics, Cerebrum, Language, Right-wing politics, Inferior frontal gyrus, Lateralization of brain function, Broca's area