The association between hemispheric specialization for language production and for spatial attention depends on left-hand preference strength

Neuropsychologia. 2016 Dec;93(Pt B):394-406. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2015.11.018. Epub 2015 Nov 25.


Cerebral lateralization for language production and spatial attention and their relationships with manual preference strength (MPS) were assessed in a sample of 293 healthy volunteers, including 151 left-handers, using fMRI during covert sentence production (PROD) and line bisection judgment (LBJ) tasks, as compared to high- and low-level reference tasks. At the group level, we found the expected complementary hemispheric specialization (HS) with leftward asymmetries for PROD within frontal and temporal regions and rightward asymmetries for LBJ within frontal and posterior occipito-parieto-temporal regions. Individual hemispheric (HLI) and regional (frontal and occipital) lateralization indices (LI) were then calculated on the activation maps for PROD and LBJ. We found a correlation between the degree of rightward cerebral asymmetry and the leftward behavioral attentional bias recorded during LBJ task. This correlation was found when LBJ-LI was computed over the hemispheres, in the frontal lobes, but not in the occipital lobes. We then investigated whether language production and spatial attention cerebral lateralization relate to each other, and whether manual preference was a variable that impacted the complementary HS of these functions. No correlation was found between spatial and language LIs in the majority of our sample of participants, including right-handers with a strong right-hand preference (sRH, n=97) and mixed-handers (MH, n=97), indicating that these functions lateralized independently. By contrast, in the group of left-handers with a strong left-hand preference (sLH, n= 99), a negative correlation was found between language and spatial lateralization. This negative correlation was found when LBJ-LI and PROD-LI were computed over the hemispheres, in the frontal lobes and between the occipital lobes for LBJ and the frontal lobes for PROD. These findings underline the importance to include sLH in the study sample to reveal the underlying mechanisms of complementary HS.

Keywords: Cerebral asymmetry; Cognitive function; Handedness; Pseudoneglect.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Judgment / physiology
  • Language Tests
  • Language*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Skills / physiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Speech / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology
  • Young Adult