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Neuropsychologia. 1991;29(11):1107-11.

Handedness in the human fetus.

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School of Psychology, Queen's University of Belfast, Northern Ireland.


The developmental origins of behavioural asymmetries, in particular handedness, have aroused considerable interest and debate. Until now such behavioural asymmetries have only been reported after birth. Here we report the existence of handedness before birth, expressed in terms of thumb-sucking by the fetus. Ultrasound observations of fetuses from 15 weeks to term revealed a marked bias for sucking the thumb of the right hand. This preference appears to be maintained throughout pregnancy, is unrelated to fetal position in utero but correlates with head position preference in the supine newborn. The findings indicate that handedness is present prior to birth and the implications of this for the development of laterality are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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