Dissociable brain structural asymmetry patterns reveal unique phenome-wide profiles

Nat Hum Behav. 2023 Feb;7(2):251-268. doi: 10.1038/s41562-022-01461-0. Epub 2022 Nov 7.


Broca reported ~150 years ago that particular lesions of the left hemisphere impair speech. Since then, other brain regions have been reported to show lateralized structure and function. Yet, studies of brain asymmetry have limited their focus to pairwise comparisons between homologous regions. Here, we characterized separable whole-brain asymmetry patterns in grey and white matter structure from n = 37,441 UK Biobank participants. By pooling information on left-right shifts underlying whole-brain structure, we deconvolved signatures of brain asymmetry that are spatially distributed rather than locally constrained. Classically asymmetric regions turned out to belong to more than one asymmetry pattern. Instead of a single dominant signature, we discovered complementary asymmetry patterns that contributed similarly to whole-brain asymmetry at the population level. These asymmetry patterns were associated with unique collections of phenotypes, ranging from early lifestyle factors to demographic status to mental health indicators.

MeSH terms

  • Brain
  • Brain Mapping
  • Functional Laterality*
  • Humans
  • Phenotype
  • White Matter*