Voxel-wise grey matter asymmetry analysis in left- and right-handers

Neurosci Lett. 2016 Oct 28:633:210-214. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2016.09.046. Epub 2016 Sep 26.


Handedness is thought to originate in the brain, but identifying its structural correlates in the cortex has yielded surprisingly incoherent results. One idea proclaimed by several authors is that structural grey matter asymmetries might underlie handedness. While some authors have found significant associations with handedness in different brain areas (e.g. in the central sulcus and precentral sulcus), others have failed to identify such associations. One method used by many researchers to determine structural grey matter asymmetries is voxel based morphometry (VBM). However, it has recently been suggested that the standard VBM protocol might not be ideal to assess structural grey matter asymmetries, as it establishes accurate voxel-wise correspondence across individuals but not across both hemispheres. This could potentially lead to biased and incoherent results. Recently, a new toolbox specifically geared at assessing structural asymmetries and involving accurate voxel-wise correspondence across hemispheres has been published [F. Kurth, C. Gaser, E. Luders. A 12-step user guide for analyzing voxel-wise gray matter asymmetries in statistical parametric mapping (SPM), Nat Protoc 10 (2015), 293-304]. Here, we used this new toolbox to re-assess grey matter asymmetry differences in left- vs. right-handers and linked them to quantitative measures of hand preference and hand skill. While we identified several significant left-right asymmetries in the overall sample, no difference between left- and right-handers reached significance after correction for multiple comparisons. These findings indicate that the structural brain correlates of handedness are unlikely to be rooted in macroscopic grey matter area differences that can be assessed with VBM. Future studies should focus on other potential structural correlates of handedness, e.g. structural white matter asymmetries.

Keywords: Handedness; Hemispheric asymmetries; Lateralization; MRT; Neuroimaging; Voxel based morphometry.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality*
  • Gray Matter / anatomy & histology*
  • Gray Matter / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Young Adult