Left-handedness and language lateralization in children

Jerzy P. Szaflarski, Akila Rajagopal, Mekibib Altaye, Anna W. Byars, Lisa Jacola, Vincent J. Schmithorst, Mark B. Schapiro, Elena Plante, Scott K. Holland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


This fMRI study investigated the development of language lateralization in left- and righthanded children between 5 and 18 years of age. Twenty-seven left-handed children (17 boys, 10 girls) and 54 age- and gender-matched right-handed children were included. We used functional MRI at 3 T and a verb generation task to measure hemispheric language dominance based on either frontal or temporo-parietal regions of interest (ROIs) defined for the entire group and applied on an individual basis. Based on the frontal ROI, in the left-handed group, 23 participants (85%) demonstrated left-hemispheric language lateralization, 3 (11%) demonstrated symmetric activation, and 1 (4%) demonstrated right-hemispheric lateralization. In contrast, 50 (93%) of the right-handed children showed left-hemispheric lateralization and 3 (6%) demonstrated a symmetric activation pattern, while one (2%) demonstrated a right-hemispheric lateralization. The corresponding values for the temporo-parietal ROI for the left-handed children were 18 (67%) left-dominant, 6 (22%) symmetric, 3 (11%) right-dominant and for the right-handed children 49 (91%), 4 (7%), 1 (2%), respectively. Left-hemispheric language lateralization increased with age in both groups but somewhat different lateralization trajectories were observed in girls when compared to boys. The incidence of atypical language lateralization in left-handed children in this study was similar to that reported in adults. We also found similar rates of increase in left-hemispheric language lateralization with age between groups (i.e., independent of handedness) indicating the presence of similar mechanisms for language lateralization in left- and right-handed children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-97
Number of pages13
JournalBrain Research
StatePublished - Jan 18 2012


  • Handedness
  • Language development
  • Language lateralization
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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