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Laterality. 2003 Jul;8(3):247-60.

The left human speech-processing cortex is thinner but longer than the right.

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  • 1Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute, and Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, Australia.


We present histological data from 21 post-mortem, adult human cases that indicate the neocortex on the left planum temporale (secondary auditory cortex) is thinner but longer than that on the right side. The volumes of the left and right regions are approximately equal. Thus, the left planum temporale cortex is long and thin and the right short and thick. The present data fit excellently with previous studies of the volume, surface area, cytoarchitectonics, and neuronal structures of these areas. From these studies we suggest that the hemispheric differences arise from a so-called "balloon model" of cortical development. In this the cortex is extended and stretched by white matter growth. The stretching is greater on the left side, leaving greater distances between neuronal columns and more tangentially (to the pial surface) oriented dendrites on that side. This difference in fine structure can result in more independent activity of individual columns on the left, and could be an anatomical factor in the usual dominance of the left hemisphere for speech perception (Seldon, 1982, 1985).

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