Scientist have made a breakthrough with the identification of genes which are potentially responsible for someone being left-handed, a characteristic that is present in roughly 1 out of every 10 people globally.
These differences in genetics are linked to variations in the structure of the brain, which might indicate that left-handed individuals possess better verbal skills than the rest of the population.
Prior studies of twins has suggested that genes are somewhat accountable for determining left-handed, right-handed, or ambidextrous orientations. This recent study done by scientists at the University of Oxford is the first to note which genetics distinguish left-handed from right-handed people.
According to a fellow researcher from the University of Oxford who helped with the study, Akira Wiberg, the findings may point to a possible connection between left-handedness and an advanced verbal prowess.
“This raises the intriguing possibility for future research that left-handers might have an advantage when it comes to performing verbal tasks, but it must be remembered that these differences were only seen as averages over very large numbers of people and not all left-handers will be similar,” said Wiberg.
More studies must be performed to verify such possibilities, according to Gwenaëlle Douaud, joint senior author of the research, as well as a fellow at Oxford’s Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging.
“We need to assess whether this higher coordination of the language areas between left and right side of the brain in the left-handers actually gives them an advantage at verbal ability. For this, we need to do a study that also has in-depth and detailed verbal-ability testing,” Douaud explained.
Details of the study
The study was funded by the United Kingdom medical research charity, Wellcome, and the U.K Medical Research Council. The scientists looked at the DNA of 400,000 individuals from the United Kingdom Biobank – a database of the health details of volunteers from around the country.
The researchers targeted four genetic areas connected to left-handedness. Three of these areas were associated with proteins that affect the brain structure and its development. The proteins were associated with microtubules, an elementary part of the cytoskeleton or cell “scaffolding”.
The cytoskeleton dictates the formation of cells, as well as how they function in the body. Prior research has exhibited the cytoskeleton’s effect on “left-right asymmetry” in species other than humans.
“Many animals show left-right asymmetry in their development, such as snail shells coiling to the left or right,” said Douaud.