The genetic origins of ‘handedness’ in humans – #365papers – 3

Ocklenburg, Schmitz, Moinfar, Moser, Klose, Lor, Kunz, Tegenthoff, Faustmann, Francks, Epplen, Kumsta, Gunturkun, 2017, Epigenetic regulation of lateralized fetal spinal gene expression underlies hemispheric asymmetries, eLIFE, e22784

What’s it about?

Most people are right handed. Researchers have wondered why. This paper discusses the state-of-the-art in studying the development of preferred hand-use during early development of human embryos. It turns out that much of ‘handedness’ may come from gene expression in the spinal cord and not so much in the brain.

Why does it matter?

At first glance people, actually lots of animals, have right and left halves. Many of these animals have a distinct preference for one side over the other. In humans, this is seen by the preferred hand that people use for writing. Understanding how asymmetries occur during embryology can help us better understand our own bodies and how we came to be the organisms that we are.

Why did I read this?

I was asking myself this question half-way through the abstract. Most of the paper is too jargon-y for me to follow. I did read this paper, however, because I’m right-handed but left-eye dominant, and I was born to a left-handed woman. I’m curious to understand how much handedness has influenced my life.

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