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Cereb Cortex. 2011 May;21(5):1076-83. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhq179. Epub 2010 Sep 17.

The prenatal origin of hemispheric asymmetry: an in utero neuroimaging study.

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Department of Radiology, Division of Neuroradiology, Medical University of Vienna, Währinger Gürtel 18-20, 1090 Vienna, Austria.


Anatomical and functional hemispheric lateralization originates from differential gene expression and leads to asymmetric structural brain development, which initially appears in the perisylvian regions by 26 gestational weeks (GWs). In this in vivo neuroimaging study, we demonstrated a predominant pattern of temporal lobe (TL) asymmetry in a large cohort of human fetuses between 18 and 37 GWs. Over two-thirds of fetuses showed a larger, left-sided TL, combined with the earlier appearance of the right superior temporal sulcus by 23 GWs (vs. 25 GWs on the left side), which was also deeper than its left counterpart in the majority of cases (94.2%). Shape analysis detected highly significant differences in the contour of the right and left TLs by 20 GWs. Thus, fetal hemispheric asymmetry can be detected in utero, opening new diagnostic possibilities for the assessment of diseases that are believed to be linked to atypical hemispheric lateralization.

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