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Concept: Roger Wolcott Sperry


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


Why do humans born without the corpus callosum, the major interhemispheric commissure, lack the disconnection syndrome classically described in callosotomized patients? This paradox was discovered by Nobel laureate Roger Sperry in 1968, and has remained unsolved since then. To tackle the hypothesis that alternative neural pathways could explain this puzzle, we investigated patients with callosal dysgenesis using structural and functional neuroimaging, as well as neuropsychological assessments. We identified two anomalous white-matter tracts by deterministic and probabilistic tractography, and provide supporting resting-state functional neuroimaging and neuropsychological evidence for their functional role in preserved interhemispheric transfer of complex tactile information, such as object recognition. These compensatory pathways connect the homotopic posterior parietal cortical areas (Brodmann areas 39 and surroundings) via the posterior and anterior commissures. We propose that anomalous brain circuitry of callosal dysgenesis is determined by long-distance plasticity, a set of hardware changes occurring in the developing brain after pathological interference. So far unknown, these pathological changes somehow divert growing axons away from the dorsal midline, creating alternative tracts through the ventral forebrain and the dorsal midbrain midline, with partial compensatory effects to the interhemispheric transfer of cortical function.

Concepts: Roger Wolcott Sperry, Nervous system, Agenesis of the corpus callosum, Corpus callosum, Cerebral hemisphere, Cerebral cortex, Brain, Cerebrum


The hemispheric lateralization of certain faculties in the human brain has long been held to be beneficial for functioning. However, quantitative relationships between the degree of lateralization in particular brain regions and the level of functioning have yet to be established. Here we demonstrate that two distinct forms of functional lateralization are present in the left vs. the right cerebral hemisphere, with the left hemisphere showing a preference to interact more exclusively with itself, particularly for cortical regions involved in language and fine motor coordination. In contrast, right-hemisphere cortical regions involved in visuospatial and attentional processing interact in a more integrative fashion with both hemispheres. The degree of lateralization present in these distinct systems selectively predicted behavioral measures of verbal and visuospatial ability, providing direct evidence that lateralization is associated with enhanced cognitive ability.

Concepts: Brain, Cerebrum, Roger Wolcott Sperry, Michael Gazzaniga, Psychology, Lateralization of brain function, Human brain, Cerebral cortex


After decades of research, the influence of prenatal testosterone on brain lateralization is still elusive, whereas the influence of pubertal testosterone on functional brain lateralization has not been investigated, although there is increasing evidence that testosterone affects the brain in puberty. We performed a longitudinal study, investigating the relationship between prenatal testosterone concentrations in amniotic fluid, pubertal testosterone concentrations in saliva, and brain lateralization (measured with functional Transcranial Doppler ultrasonography (fTCD)) of the Mental Rotation, Chimeric Faces and Word Generation tasks. Thirty boys and 30 girls participated in this study at the age of 15 years. For boys, we found a significant interaction effect between prenatal and pubertal testosterone on lateralization of Mental Rotation and Chimeric Faces. In the boys with low prenatal testosterone levels, pubertal testosterone was positively related to the strength of lateralization in the right hemisphere, while in the boys with high prenatal testosterone levels, pubertal testosterone was negatively related to the strength of lateralization. For Word Generation, pubertal testosterone was negatively related to the strength of lateralization in the left hemisphere in boys. For girls, we did not find any significant effects, possibly because their pubertal testosterone levels were in many cases below quantification limit. To conclude, prenatal and pubertal testosterone affect lateralization in a task-specific way. Our findings cannot be explained by simple models of prenatal testosterone affecting brain lateralization in a similar way for all tasks. We discuss alternative models involving age dependent effects of testosterone, with a role for androgen receptor distribution and efficiency.

Concepts: Medical ultrasonography, Roger Wolcott Sperry, Cerebrum, Michael Gazzaniga, Effect, Affect, Human brain, Testosterone


Neuroimaging studies suggest greater involvement of the left parietal lobe in sign language compared to speech production. This stronger activation might be linked to the specific demands of sign encoding and proprioceptive monitoring. In Experiment 1 we investigate hemispheric lateralization during sign and speech generation in hearing native users of English and British Sign Language (BSL). Participants exhibited stronger lateralization during BSL than English production. In Experiment 2 we investigated whether this increased lateralization index could be due exclusively to the higher motoric demands of sign production. Sign naïve participants performed a phonological fluency task in English and a non-sign repetition task. Participants were left lateralized in the phonological fluency task but there was no consistent pattern of lateralization for the non-sign repetition in these hearing non-signers. The current data demonstrate stronger left hemisphere lateralization for producing signs than speech, which was not primarily driven by motoric articulatory demands.

Concepts: Roger Wolcott Sperry, Michael Gazzaniga, Linguistics, Lateralization of brain function, Parietal lobe, Cerebrum, British Sign Language, Language


In most people, language is processed predominantly by the left hemisphere of the brain, but we do not know how or why. A popular view is that developmental language disorders result from a poorly lateralized brain, but until recently, evidence has been weak and indirect. Modern neuroimaging methods have made it possible to study normal and abnormal development of lateralized function in the developing brain and have confirmed links with language and literacy impairments. However, there is little evidence that weak cerebral lateralization has common genetic origins with language and literacy impairments. Our understanding of the association between atypical language lateralization and developmental disorders may benefit if we reconceptualize the nature of cerebral asymmetry to recognize its multidimensionality and consider variation in lateralization over developmental time. Contrary to popular belief, cerebral lateralization may not be a highly heritable, stable characteristic of individuals; rather, weak lateralization may be a consequence of impaired language learning.

Concepts: Cerebral cortex, Roger Wolcott Sperry, Michael Gazzaniga, Cerebrum, Lateralization of brain function, Human brain


Impaired insight into illness (IMP-INS) is common among individuals with schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD), contributing to medication nonadherence and poor clinical outcomes. Caloric vestibular simulation (CVS) is typically used to assess peripheral vestibular system function. Left cold CVS is also a transiently effective treatment for IMP-INS and hemineglect secondary to right brain hemisphere stroke, and possibly for IMP-INS and mood stabilization in patients with SSD. Participants with SSD and moderate-to-severe IMP-INS participated in an exploratory double blind, crossover, randomized controlled study of the effects of CVS on IMP-INS. Participants sequentially received all experimental conditions-left cold (4°C), right cold, and body temperature/sham CVS-in a random order. Repeated measures ANOVA were performed to compare changes in IMP-INS, mood and positive symptom severity pre and 30min post CVS. A significant interaction was found between CVS condition, time, and body temperature nystagmus peak slow phase velocity (PSPV) for IMP-INS, indicating that single session left cold CVS transiently improved IMP-INS while right cold CVS may have worsened IMP-INS, particularly in participants with greater vestibular reactivity (i.e. higher PSPV) to body temperature CVS. The procedure’s effectiveness is attributed to stimulation of underactive right hemisphere circuits via vestibular nuclei projections to the contralateral hemisphere.

Concepts: Schizophrenia, Roger Wolcott Sperry, Effectiveness, Michael Gazzaniga, Temperature, Analysis of variance, Political spectrum, Cerebral hemisphere


Previous studies on European robins, Erithacus rubecula, and Australian silvereyes, Zosterops lateralis, had suggested that magnetic compass information is being processed only in the right eye and left brain hemisphere of migratory birds. However, recently it was demonstrated that both garden warblers, Sylvia borin, and European robins have a magnetic compass in both eyes. These results raise the question if the strong lateralization effect observed in earlier experiments might have arisen from artifacts or from differences in experimental conditions rather than reflecting a true all-or-none lateralization of the magnetic compass in European robins. Here we show that (1) European robins having only their left eye open can orient in their seasonally appropriate direction both during autumn and spring, i.e. there are no strong lateralization differences between the outward journey and the way home, that (2) their directional choices are based on the standard inclination compass as they are turned 180° when the inclination is reversed, and that (3) the capability to use the magnetic compass does not depend on monocular learning or intraocular transfer as it is already present in the first tests of the birds with only one eye open.

Concepts: American Robin, Erithacus, European Robin, Compass, Lateralization of brain function, Roger Wolcott Sperry, Michael Gazzaniga, Eye


In this paper, we examine brain lateralization patterns for a complex visual-spatial task commonly used to assess general spatial abilities. Although spatial abilities have classically been ascribed to the right hemisphere, evidence suggests that at least some tasks may be strongly bilateral. For example, while functional neuroimaging studies show right-lateralized activations for some spatial tasks (e.g., line bisection), bilateral activations are often reported for others, including classic spatial tasks such as mental rotation. Moreover, constructive apraxia has been reported following left- as well as right-hemisphere damage in adults, suggesting a role for the left hemisphere in spatial function. Here, we use functional neuroimaging to probe lateralization while healthy adults carry out a simplified visual-spatial construction task, in which they judge whether two geometric puzzle pieces can be combined to form a square. The task evokes strong bilateral activations, predominantly in parietal and lateral occipital cortex. Bilaterality was observed at the single-subject as well as at the group level, and regardless of whether specific items required mental rotation. We speculate that complex visual-spatial tasks may generally engage more bilateral activation of the brain than previously thought, and we discuss implications for understanding hemispheric specialization for spatial functions.

Concepts: Occipital lobe, Roger Wolcott Sperry, Michael Gazzaniga, Brain, Functional neuroimaging, Cerebral cortex, Cerebrum, Human brain


This study investigated whether functional transcranial Doppler ultrasound (fTCD) is a suitable tool for studying hemispheric lateralization of language in patients with pre-perinatal left hemisphere (LH) lesions and right hemiparesis. Eighteen left-hemisphere-damaged children and young adults and 18 healthy controls were assessed by fTCD and fMRI to evaluate hemispheric activation during two language tasks: a fTCD animation description task and a fMRI covert rhyme generation task. Lateralization indices (LIs), measured by the two methods, differed significantly between the two groups, for a clear LH dominance in healthy participants and a prevalent activation of right hemisphere in more than 80% of brain-damaged patients. Distribution of participants in terms of left, right, and bilateral lateralization was highly concordant between fTCD and fMRI values. Moreover, right hemisphere language dominance in patients with left hemispheric lesions was significantly associated with severity of cortical and subcortical damage in LH. This study suggests that fTCD is an easily applicable tool that might be a valid alternative to fMRI for large-scale studies of patients with congenital brain lesions.

Concepts: Lateralization of brain function, Roger Wolcott Sperry, Michael Gazzaniga, Human brain