Hemispheric asymmetry: contributions from brain imaging

Authors

  • Kenneth Hugdahl

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biological and Medical Psychology, University of Bergen, N-5020 Bergen, Norway
    2. Division of Psychiatry, Haukeland University Hospital, 5053 Bergen, Norway
    • Department of Biological and Medical Psychology, University of Bergen, N-5020 Bergen, Norway
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Abstract

A series of studies using functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging, including diffusion tensor imaging measures also, to elucidate the aspects of hemispheric asymmetry are reviewed. It is suggested that laterality evolved as a response to the demands of language and the need for air-based communication which may have necessitated a division of labor between the hemispheres in order to avoid having duplicate copies in both the hemispheres that would increase processing redundancy. This would have put pressure on brain structures related to the evolution of language and speech, such as the left peri-Sylvian region. MRI data are provided showing structural and functional asymmetry in this region of the brain and how fibers connecting the right and left peri-Sylvian regions pass through the corpus callosum. It is further suggested that the so-called Yakelovian-torque, i.e., the twisting of the brain along the longitudinal axis, with the right frontal and left occipital poles protruding beyond the corresponding left and right sides, was necessary for the expansion of the left peri-Sylvian region and the right occipito-parietal regions subserving the processing of spatial relations. Functional magnetic resonance imaging data related to sex differences for visuo-spatial processing are presented showing enhanced right-sided activation in posterior parts of the brain in both sexes, and frontal activation including Broca's area in the female group only, suggesting that males and females use different strategies when solving a cognitive task. The paper ends with a discussion of the role of the corpus callosum in laterality and the role played by structural asymmetry in understanding corresponding functional asymmetry. WIREs Cogni Sci 2011 2 461–478 DOI: 10.1002/wcs.122

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