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Acta Psychol (Amst). 2000 Dec;105(2-3):211-35.

Lateralization of cognitive processes in the brain.

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Department of Biological and Medical Psychology, University of Bergen, Arstadveien 21, 5009 Bergen, Norway.


The lateralization of cognitive processes in the brain is discussed. The traditional view of a language-visuo/spatial dichotomy of function between the hemispheres has been replaced by more subtle distinctions. The use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study brain morphology has resulted in a renewed focus on the relationship between structural and functional asymmetry. Focus has been on the role played by the planum temporale area in the posterior part of the superior temporal gyrus for language asymmetry, and the possible significance of the larger left planum. The dichotic listening technique is used to illustrate the difference between bottom-up, or stimulus-driven laterality versus top-down, or instruction-driven laterality. It is suggested that the hemispheric dominance observed at any time is the sum result of the dynamic interaction between bottom-up and top-down processing tendencies. Stimulus-driven laterality dominance is always monitored and modulated through top-down cognitive processes, like shifting of attention and changes in arousal. A model of top-down modulation of bottom-up laterality is presented with special reference to the understanding of psychiatric disorders.

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