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Handedness and hemispheric language dominance in healthy humans

S. Knecht, B. Dräger, M. Deppe, L. Bobe, H. Lohmann, A. Flöel, E.-B. Ringelstein, H. Henningsen
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/123.12.2512 2512-2518 First published online: 1 December 2000


In most people the left hemisphere of the brain is dominant for language. Because of the increased incidence of atypical right-hemispheric language in left-handed neurological patients, a systematic association between handedness and dominance has long been suspected. To clarify the relationship between handedness and language dominance in healthy subjects, we measured lateralization directly by functional transcranial Doppler sonography in 326 healthy individuals using a word-generation task. The incidence of right-hemisphere language dominance was found to increase linearly with the degree of left-handedness, from 4% in strong right-handers (handedness = 100) to 15% in ambidextrous individuals and 27% in strong left-handers (handedness = –100). The relationship could be approximated by the formula: Math. These results clearly demonstrate that the relationship between handedness and language dominance is not an artefact of cerebral pathology but a natural phenomenon.

  • language lateralization
  • hemispheric dominance
  • handedness
  • functional Doppler ultrasonography
  • ANOVA = analysis of variance
  • fMRI = functional MRI
  • fTCD = functional transcranial Doppler ultrasonography
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