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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2000 Jul;25(5):497-512.

Language lateralization and handedness in women prenatally exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES).

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Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.


Hand preferences and language lateralization were assessed in women exposed prenatally to the synthetic estrogen, diethylstilbestrol (DES), and in their unexposed sisters. The DES-exposed women showed an increased degree of hand preference (regardless of direction) and were more likely to be left handed for writing. However, the groups did not differ significantly on a dichotic listening measure of language lateralization. Perhaps as a result of the alterations in hand preferences, the typical relationship between hand preferences and language lateralization was disrupted in the DES-exposed group. Also, within the DES-exposed group, exposure early in gestation correlated with left handedness whereas exposure late in gestation correlated with reduced left ear (right hemisphere) scores on the verbal dichotic task. Results are discussed in terms of theoretical perspectives predicting hormonal influences on sexual differentiation of hemispheric asymmetry and in terms of separate critical periods for hormonal effects on individual sexually differentiated characteristics.

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