Literacy: a cultural influence on functional left–right differences in the inferior parietal cortex

Authors

  • Karl Magnus Petersson,

    1. Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, PO Box 310, 6500 AH Nijmegen, the Netherlands
    2. Cognitive Neurophysiology Research Group, Stockholm Brain Institute, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
    3. F.C. Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands
    4. Cognitive Neuroscience Research Group, Departamento de Psicologia, Faculdade de Ciências Humanas e Sociais, Universidade do Algarve, Faro, Portugal
    5. Centre for Intelligent Systems, Universidade do Algarve, Faro, Portugal
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  • Carla Silva,

    1. Cognitive Neuroscience Research Group, Departamento de Psicologia, Faculdade de Ciências Humanas e Sociais, Universidade do Algarve, Faro, Portugal
    2. Departamento de Física, Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia, Universidade do Algarve, Faro, Portugal
    3. Centre for Intelligent Systems, Universidade do Algarve, Faro, Portugal
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  • Alexandre Castro-Caldas,

    1. Institute of Health Sciences, Catholic University of Portugal, Lisbon, Portugal
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  • Martin Ingvar,

    1. Cognitive Neurophysiology Research Group, Stockholm Brain Institute, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
    2. Cognitive Neuroscience Research Group, Departamento de Psicologia, Faculdade de Ciências Humanas e Sociais, Universidade do Algarve, Faro, Portugal
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  • Alexandra Reis

    1. Cognitive Neurophysiology Research Group, Stockholm Brain Institute, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
    2. Cognitive Neuroscience Research Group, Departamento de Psicologia, Faculdade de Ciências Humanas e Sociais, Universidade do Algarve, Faro, Portugal
    3. Centre for Intelligent Systems, Universidade do Algarve, Faro, Portugal
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Dr Karl Magnus Petersson, 1Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, as above.
E-mail: karl.magnus.petersson@fcdonders.ru.nl

Abstract

The current understanding of hemispheric interaction is limited. Functional hemispheric specialization is likely to depend on both genetic and environmental factors. In the present study we investigated the importance of one factor, literacy, for the functional lateralization in the inferior parietal cortex in two independent samples of literate and illiterate subjects. The results show that the illiterate group are consistently more right-lateralized than their literate controls. In contrast, the two groups showed a similar degree of left–right differences in early speech-related regions of the superior temporal cortex. These results provide evidence suggesting that a cultural factor, literacy, influences the functional hemispheric balance in reading and verbal working memory-related regions. In a third sample, we investigated grey and white matter with voxel-based morphometry. The results showed differences between literacy groups in white matter intensities related to the mid-body region of the corpus callosum and the inferior parietal and parietotemporal regions (literate > illiterate). There were no corresponding differences in the grey matter. This suggests that the influence of literacy on brain structure related to reading and verbal working memory is affecting large-scale brain connectivity more than grey matter per se.

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