What is left is right: How speech asymmetry shaped the brain

Research Area: Research Year: 2009
Type of Publication: Article Keywords: hemispheric asymmetry, lateralization, speech, brain evolution, corpus callosum
Authors: Hugdahl, Kenneth; Westerhausen, Rene
The present paper is based on a talk on hemispheric asymmetry given by Kenneth Hugdahl at the Xth European Congress of Psychology, Praha July 2007. Here, we propose that hemispheric asymmetry evolved because of a left hemisphere speech processing specialization. The evolution of speech and the need for air-based communication necessitated division of labor between the hemispheres in order to avoid having duplicate copies in both hemispheres that would increase processing redundancy. It is argued that the neuronal basis of this labor division is the structural asymmetry observed in the peri-Sylvian region in the posterior part of the temporal lobe, with a left larger than right planum temporale area. This is the only example where a structural, or anatomical, asymmetry matches a corresponding functional asymmetry. The increase in gray matter volume in the left planum temporale area corresponds to a functional asymmetry of speech processing, as indexed from both behavioral, dichotic listening, and functional neuroimaging studies. The functional anatomy of the corpus callosum also supports such a view, with regional specificity of information transfer between the hemispheres.
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