Does cerebral lateralization develop? A study using functional transcranial Doppler ultrasound assessing lateralization for language production and visuospatial memory.
Groen MA., Whitehouse AJO., Badcock NA., Bishop DVM.
In the majority of people, language production is lateralized to the left cerebral hemisphere and visuospatial skills to the right. However, questions remain as to when, how, and why humans arrive at this division of labor. In this study, we assessed cerebral lateralization for language production and for visuospatial memory using functional transcranial Doppler ultrasound in a group of 60 typically developing children between the ages of six and 16 years. The typical pattern of left-lateralized activation for language production and right-lateralized activation for visuospatial memory was found in the majority of the children (58%). No age-related change in direction or strength of lateralization was found for language production. In contrast, the strength of lateralization (independent of direction) for visuospatial memory function continued to increase with age. In addition, boys showed a trend for stronger right-hemisphere lateralization for visuospatial memory than girls, but there was no gender effect on language laterality. We tested whether having language and visuospatial functions in the same hemisphere was associated with poor cognitive performance and found no evidence for this "functional crowding" hypothesis. We did, however, find that children with left-lateralized language production had higher vocabulary and nonword reading age-adjusted standard scores than other children, regardless of the laterality of visuospatial memory. Thus, a link between language function and left-hemisphere lateralization exists, and cannot be explained in terms of maturational change.