Linkage analysis in a Dutch population isolate shows no major gene for left-handedness or atypical language lateralization

J Neurosci. 2015 Jun 10;35(23):8730-6. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3287-14.2015.


Cerebral dominance of language function and hand preference are suggested to be heritable traits with possible shared genetic background. However, joined genetic studies of these traits have never been conducted. We performed a genetic linkage study in 37 multigenerational human pedigrees of both sexes (consisting of 355 subjects) enriched with left-handedness in which we also measured language lateralization. Hand preference was measured with the Edinburgh Handedness Inventory, and language lateralization was measured with functional transcranial Doppler during language production. The estimated heritability of left-handedness and language lateralization in these pedigrees is 0.24 and 0.31, respectively. A parametric major gene model was tested for left-handedness. Nonparametric analyses were performed for left-handedness, atypical lateralization, and degree of language lateralization. We did not observe genome-wide evidence for linkage in the parametric or nonparametric analyses for any of the phenotypes tested. However, multiple regions showed suggestive evidence of linkage. The parametric model showed suggestive linkage for left-handedness in the 22q13 region [heterogeneity logarithm of odds (HLOD) = 2.18]. Nonparametric multipoint analysis of left-handedness showed suggestive linkage in the same region [logarithm of odds (LOD) = 2.80]. Atypical language lateralization showed suggestive linkage in the 7q34 region (LODMax = 2.35). For strength of language lateralization, we observed suggestive linkage in the 6p22 (LODMax = 2.54), 7q32 (LODMax = 1.93), and 9q33 (LODMax = 2.10) regions. We did not observe any overlap of suggestive genetic signal between handedness and the extent of language lateralization. The absence of significant linkage argues against the presence of a major gene coding for both traits; rather, our results are suggestive of these traits being two independent polygenic complex traits.

Keywords: asymmetry; genetics; hand-preference; language lateralization; left-handedness; linkage analysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / genetics*
  • Genetic Linkage*
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Transcranial
  • Young Adult