Hand preference and local asymmetry in cerebral cortex, basal ganglia, and cerebellar white matter

Brain Struct Funct. 2019 Nov;224(8):2899-2905. doi: 10.1007/s00429-019-01941-6. Epub 2019 Aug 24.


Hand preference is a striking example of functional lateralization, with 90% of the population preferentially using their right hand. However, the search for brain structural correlates of this lateralization has produced inconsistent results. While large-scale neuroimaging studies using automated methods have largely failed to find local anatomical asymmetries associated with hand preference, other studies identifying specific motor regions have been able to find local morphological and functional differences. The present study looked at brain asymmetries in the brain's motor system using established cortical landmarks to identify the somatomotor hand region and extracted regional volumes of subcortical and cerebellar regions. Our results showed a strong left-right asymmetry in the cortical hand region, with weaker asymmetries appearing in the striatum and cerebellar white matter. Such asymmetries were much more pronounced in right-handers, whereas much weaker or absent lateralizing effects were observed in left-handed subjects. This study demonstrates the importance of local landmarks in studying individual anatomical differences. More generally, establishing structural correlates of hand preference is important, as this could further establish the origins of cerebral lateralization.

Keywords: Brain morphology; Hand preference; Left–right asymmetry; Motor system.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Basal Ganglia / anatomy & histology*
  • Basal Ganglia / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebellum / anatomy & histology*
  • Cerebellum / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality*
  • Hand
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • White Matter / anatomy & histology*
  • White Matter / physiology
  • Young Adult