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Cereb Cortex. 2004 Sep;14(9):945-51. Epub 2004 Apr 27.

White matter asymmetry in the human brain: a diffusion tensor MRI study.

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NeuroImage Nord, Department of Neurology, Hamburg University Medical School, D-20246 Hamburg, Germany.


Language ability and handedness are likely to be associated with asymmetry of the cerebral cortex (grey matter) and connectivity (white matter). Grey matter asymmetry, most likely linked to language has been identified with voxel-based morphometry (VBM) using T(1)-weighted images. Differences in white matter obtained with this technique are less consistent, probably due to the relative insensitivity of the T(1) contrast to the ultrastructure of white matter. Furthermore, previous VBM studies failed to find differences related to handedness in either grey or white matter. We revisited these issues and investigated two independent groups of subjects with diffusion-tensor imaging (DTI) for asymmetries in white matter composition. Using voxel-based statistical analyses an asymmetry of the arcuate fascicle was observed, with higher fractional anisotropy in the left hemisphere. In addition, we show differences related to handedness in the white matter underneath the precentral gyrus contralateral to the dominant hand. Remarkably, these findings were very robust, even when investigating small groups of subjects. This highlights the sensitivity of DTI for white matter tissue differences, making it an ideal tool to study small patient populations.

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