Left out axoms make men right: A hypothesis for the origin of handedness and functional asymmetry
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The origin and underlying mechanisms of hand preference are still unresolved, despite extensive research and discussion. Numerous possibilities have been considered, including genetic and hormonal factors, brain insult and learning. We suggest here that naturally occurring loss of axons of the corpus callosum (either symmetric or asymmetric, with or without neuron death) may be one mechanism underlying the embryological development of hand preference and hemispheric anatomical and functional asymmetries in males. We note supporting evidence for this hypothesis from a report of increased prevalence of left-handedness in children born prematurely at the gestational age prior to the likely onset of axon loss. The practical implications of this hypothesis for clinical management in neonatal intensive care units are discussed. It is suggested that the course of loss of callosal axons may have a genetic component which is associated with a sex-related influence and which is modifiable by prenatal and early postnatal events.
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