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Prog Neurobiol. 2017 Dec;159:69-89. doi: 10.1016/j.pneurobio.2017.10.005. Epub 2017 Oct 31.

Beyond the genome-Towards an epigenetic understanding of handedness ontogenesis.

Author information

1
Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, Department Biopsychology, Ruhr University Bochum, 44780 Bochum, Germany. Electronic address: judith.schmitz@rub.de.
2
Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience, Department of Neuroscience, 4401 University Drive, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.
3
Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, Department Biopsychology, Ruhr University Bochum, 44780 Bochum, Germany; Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS), Wallenberg Research Centre at Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch 7600, South Africa.
4
Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, Department Biopsychology, Ruhr University Bochum, 44780 Bochum, Germany.

Abstract

Hemispheric asymmetries represent one of the major organizational principles in vertebrate neurobiology, but their molecular determinants are not well understood. For handedness, the most widely investigated form of hemispheric asymmetries in humans, single gene explanations have been the most popular ontogenetic model in the past. However, molecular genetic studies revealed only few specific genes that explain a small fraction of the phenotypic variance. In contrast, family studies indicated heritability of up to 0.66. It has been suggested that the lack of recognizable genetic heritability is partly accounted for by heritable epigenetic mechanisms. Based on recent neuroscientific findings highlighting the importance of epigenetic mechanisms for brain function and disease, we review recent findings describing non-genetic influences on handedness from conception to childhood. We aim to advance the idea that epigenetic regulation might be the mediating mechanism between environment and phenotype. Recent findings on molecular epigenetic mechanisms indicate that particular asymmetries in DNA methylation might affect asymmetric gene expression in the central nervous system that in turn mediates handedness. We propose that an integration of genes and environment is essential to fully comprehend the ontogenesis of handedness and other hemispheric asymmetries.

KEYWORDS:

Epigenetics; Functional preference; Handedness; Hemispheric asymmetry; Lateralization; Ontogenesis

PMID:
29100839
DOI:
10.1016/j.pneurobio.2017.10.005
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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