Are You Left Handed? Maybe Its Not All In Your Genes

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Professor Sarah Medland  Coordinator of the Mental Health Research Program and Group Leader Psychiatric Genetics QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute

Prof. Medland

Professor Sarah Medland
Coordinator of the Mental Health Research Program and Group Leader Psychiatric Genetics
QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: This large collaborative project involving participants and researchers from around the world which has been underway for about 10 years. The aim was to try and identify genetic variants that influence handedness with the goal of increasing our knowledge about the way lateralization develops in behaviour and in the brain.

In this project we were able to bring together results from cohort studies conducted by academic collaborators, the UK Biobank and 23andMe yielding a total sample size of over 1.7 million participants. Working with Professor David Evans the co-senior author of the paper (University of Queensland) and Dr Gabriel Cuellar-Partida the first author of the paper (formally UQ now at 23andMe) and the other researchers who worked on the project we meta-analysed the genome-wide association analysis results from the cohorts and were able to identify 41 genetic variants that influence left-handedness and 7 that influence ambidextrousness.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings? 

Response: Interestingly there was relatively little genetic correlation between left-handedness and ambidextrousness. We were also able to confirm that the variance in handedness that could be explained by genetic factors is relatively low suggesting that non-genetic or environmental factors play a large role in the development of handedness.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: There is a large body of literature proposing and discussing single gene theories of handedness. However, our findings suggest that handedness is a complex trait influenced by a large number of genetic and environmental factors each of which individually has a very small effect.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: The lack of correlation between left-handedness and ambidextrousness suggest the mechanisms influencing the direction of handedness might be difference from those influencing the degree of handedness and more research is needed to investigate this. More research is also needed to investigate how the variants we identified might influence handedness and whether these variants might influence lateralization of other functions within the brain.

 No disclosures 


Cuellar-Partida, G., Tung, J.Y., Eriksson, N. et al. Genome-wide association study identifies 48 common genetic variants associated with handedness. Nat Hum Behav (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-020-00956-y


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Sep 30, 2020 @ 11:25 am

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