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      Associations between Handedness and Cerebral Lateralisation for Language: A Comparison of Three Measures in Children

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          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.

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          Most cited references 31

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          A classification of hand preference by association analysis.

           M Annett (1970)
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            Language lateralization in healthy right-handers.

            Our knowledge about the variability of cerebral language lateralization is derived from studies of patients with brain lesions and thus possible secondary reorganization of cerebral functions. In healthy right-handed subjects 'atypical', i.e. right hemisphere language dominance, has generally been assumed to be exceedingly rare. To test this assumption we measured language lateralization in 188 healthy subjects with moderate and strong right-handedness (59% females) by a new non-invasive, quantitative technique previously validated by direct comparison with the intracarotid amobarbital procedure. During a word generation task the averaged hemispheric perfusion differences within the territories of the middle cerebral arteries were determined. (i) The natural distribution of language lateralization was found to occur along a bimodal continuum. (ii) Lateralization was equivalent in men and women. (iii) Right hemisphere dominance was found in 7.5% of subjects. These findings indicate that atypical language dominance in healthy right-handed subjects of either sex is considerably more common than previously suspected.
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              The evolution and genetics of cerebral asymmetry.

              Handedness and cerebral asymmetry are commonly assumed to be uniquely human, and even defining characteristics of our species. This is increasingly refuted by the evidence of behavioural asymmetries in non-human species. Although complex manual skill and language are indeed unique to our species and are represented asymmetrically in the brain, some non-human asymmetries appear to be precursors, and others are shared between humans and non-humans. In all behavioural and cerebral asymmetries so far investigated, a minority of individuals reverse or negate the dominant asymmetry, suggesting that such asymmetries are best understood in the context of the overriding bilateral symmetry of the brain and body, and a trade-off between the relative advantages and disadvantages of symmetry and asymmetry. Genetic models of handedness, for example, typically postulate a gene with two alleles, one disposing towards right-handedness and the other imposing no directional influence. There is as yet no convincing evidence as to the location of this putative gene, suggesting that several genes may be involved, or that the gene may be monomorphic with variations due to environmental or epigenetic influences. Nevertheless, it is suggested that, in behavioural, neurological and evolutionary terms, it may be more profitable to examine the degree rather than the direction of asymmetry.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                30 May 2013
                : 8
                : 5
                [1 ]Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
                [2 ]Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, Centre for Child Health Research, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
                [3 ]School of Psychology, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
                [4 ]ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, Department of Cognitive Science, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
                [5 ]Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
                University of Texas at Dallas, United States of America
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: Co-author Andrew J. O. Whitehouse is a PLOS ONE Editorial Board member, and confirm this does not alter the authors' adherence to all the PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.

                Conceived and designed the experiments: MAG AJOW DVMB. Performed the experiments: MAG AJOW. Analyzed the data: MAG NAB. Wrote the paper: MAG AJOW NAB DVMB. Designed software used in analysis: NAB.


                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Page count
                Pages: 6
                This research was supported by a program grant from the Wellcome Trust (082498/Z/07/Z). Andrew J. O. Whitehouse is supported by a Career Development Fellowship from the National Health and Medical Research Council (no. 1004065). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Research Article
                Central Nervous System
                Behavioral Neuroscience
                Social and Behavioral Sciences
                Verbal Behavior
                Developmental Psychology
                Experimental Psychology



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