Hemispheric division of function is the result of independent probabilistic biases

Neuropsychologia. 2009 Jul;47(8-9):1938-43. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2009.03.005. Epub 2009 Mar 13.


Verbal and visuospatial abilities are typically subserved by different cerebral hemispheres: the left hemisphere for the former and the right hemisphere for the latter. However little is known of the origin of this division of function. Causal theories propose that functional asymmetry is an obligatory pattern of organisation, while statistical theories maintain this is a reflection of independent, probalistic biases. The current study investigated lateralisation for language production and spatial memory using functional Transcranial Doppler in 75 healthy adults (45 right handed, 27 left-handed, 3 ambidextrous). The majority of participants had language abilities lateralised to the left-hemisphere and spatial memory to the right hemisphere, while around one-quarter of participants had these functions lateralised to the same hemisphere. No participants showed the reversal of typical organisation. The findings are consistent with a statistical view of functional asymmetry, in which hemispheric biases for verbal and visual functions reflect probabilities relating to independent causal sources.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Bias*
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / physiology
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Probability*
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler / methods
  • Young Adult