Brain structural and functional asymmetry in human situs inversus totalis

Brain Struct Funct. 2018 May;223(4):1937-1952. doi: 10.1007/s00429-017-1598-5. Epub 2018 Jan 4.


Magnetic resonance imaging was used to investigate brain structural and functional asymmetries in 15 participants with complete visceral reversal (situs inversus totalis, SIT). Language-related brain structural and functional lateralization of SIT participants, including peri-Sylvian gray and white matter asymmetries and hemispheric language dominance, was similar to those of 15 control participants individually matched for sex, age, education, and handedness. In contrast, the SIT cohort showed reversal of the brain (Yakovlevian) torque (occipital petalia and occipital bending) compared to the control group. Secondary findings suggested different asymmetry patterns between SIT participants with (n = 6) or without (n = 9) primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD, also known as Kartagener syndrome) although the small sample sizes warrant cautious interpretation. In particular, reversed brain torque was mainly due to the subgroup with PCD-unrelated SIT and this group also included 55% left handers, a ratio close to a random allocation of handedness. We conclude that complete visceral reversal has no effect on the lateralization of brain structural and functional asymmetries associated with language, but seems to reverse the typical direction of the brain torque in particular in participants that have SIT unrelated to PCD. The observed differences in asymmetry patterns of SIT groups with and without PCD seem to suggest that symmetry breaking of visceral laterality, brain torque, and language dominance rely on different mechanisms.

Keywords: Brain asymmetry; Handedness; Language dominance; Primary ciliary dyskinesia; Situs inversus.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Language
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Situs Inversus / diagnostic imaging
  • Situs Inversus / pathology*
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen

Grants and funding