What makes us left or right handed? New study rules out strong genetic factors

October 1, 2013, University of Nottingham
What makes us left or right handed? New study rules out strong genetic factors

Around 10 per cent of the UK is left handed—and that percentage remains consistent in many populations around the world. But why exactly someone is left or right handed remains unclear.

New research from The University of Nottingham's Professor John Armour and Dr Angus Davison, in collaboration with UCL's Professor Chris McManus, has ruled out a 'strong genetic determinant' in influencing handedness.

The researchers conducted a twin study examining the whole genome—which contains hereditary information—of nearly 4,000 subjects from the London Twin Research Unit to compare left and right handed participants.

The study—'Genome-wide association study of handedness excludes simple genetic models'—has been published in the journal Heredity.

The study was unable to find a strong genetic factor in determining handedness. If there was a single major genetic determination of handedness, there should be a detectable shift between left and right handed people in the frequency of variants in that part of the genome—and this isn't the case.

Professor Armour, Professor of Human Genetics at The University of Nottingham, said: "There should be a detectable shift between right and left handed people because modern methods for typing genetic variation cover nearly all of the genome. A survey that compared the whole-genome genotypes for right and left handed people should leave such a gene nowhere to hide."

Despite the absence of a strong genetic factor, it is widely believed that handedness is not only a matter of choice or learning. This study suggests, therefore, that genetic factors in handedness must be relatively weak and subtle, which has ramifications for future studies.

Professor Armour said: "It is likely that there are many relatively weak in handedness, rather than any strong factors, and much bigger studies than our own will be needed to identify such genes unambiguously. As a consequence, even if these genes are identified in the future, it is very unlikely that handedness could be usefully predicted by analysis of human DNA."

Explore further: Genes linked to being right- or left-handed identified

More information: The findings of the study can be viewed on the Heredity website: www.nature.com/hdy/journal/vao … full/hdy201393a.html

Related Stories

Genes linked to being right- or left-handed identified

September 12, 2013
A genetic study has identified a biological process that influences whether we are right handed or left handed.

Gorillas' right-handedness gives new clues to human language development

May 20, 2011
(PhysOrg.com) -- A new study that has identified a right-handed dominance in gorillas may also reveal how tool use led to language development in humans.

Recommended for you

Scientists identify method to study resilience to pain

December 14, 2018
Scientists at the Yale School of Medicine and Veterans Affairs Connecticut Healthcare System have successfully demonstrated that it is possible to pinpoint genes that contribute to inter-individual differences in pain.

Researchers uncover molecular mechanisms linked to autism and schizophrenia

December 13, 2018
Since the completion of the groundbreaking Human Genome Project in 2003, researchers have discovered changes to hundreds of places in the DNA, called genetic variants, associated with psychiatric diseases such as autism spectrum ...

CRISPR joins battle of the bulge, fights obesity without edits to genome

December 13, 2018
A weighty new study shows that CRISPR therapies can cut fat without cutting DNA. In a paper published Dec. 13, 2018, in the journal Science, UC San Francisco researchers describe how a modified version of CRISPR was used ...

Noncoding mutations contribute to autism risk

December 13, 2018
A whole-genome sequencing study of nearly 2,000 families has implicated mutations in 'promoter regions' of the genome—regions that precede the start of a gene—in autism. The study, which appears in the December 14 issue ...

New method for studying ALS more effectively

December 13, 2018
The neurodegenerative disease ALS causes motor neuron death and paralysis. However, long before the cells die, they lose contact with muscles as their axons atrophy. Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have now ...

Paternal grandfather's high access to food may indicate higher mortality risk in grandsons

December 12, 2018
A paternal grandfather's access to food during his childhood is associated with mortality risk, especially cancer mortality, in his grandson, shows a large three-generational study from Stockholm University. The reason might ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Tom_Hennessy
not rated yet Oct 02, 2013
A lack of choline has been shown to cause facial developement disorder and facial developement disorder has a very high rate of left-handedness.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.