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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 1996 Winter;20(4):637-43.

Diencephalic asymmetries.

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Institute of Anatomy and Histology, University of Verona, Italy.


Structural asymmetry in diencephalic regions has been reported in a number of studies since the pioneering observations by Kemali and Braitenberg, Atlas of the frog's brain. Springer Verlag: 1969. Anatomical differences between the left and right habenulae have been identified in many lower vertebrate species. While there are few reports of structural asymmetry in the dorsal thalamus, there is evidence that asymmetrical thalamofugal projections can be induced in the visual system of chicks by lateralized sensory stimulation prior to hatching. Finally, there have been consistent reports of differences between and right sides of the hypothalamus in their sensitivity to the effects of circulating gonadal hormones in rats. In most cases, these asymmetries are sex-linked and correspond to a lateralization of function. Although the significance of these diencephalic asymmetries is still enigmatic, their existence indicates that asymmetry is not a phylogenetically recent feature of the brain, and the left-right differences in the brain may be mediated by a common ontogenetic mechanism and may underlie the development of highly specialized functions.

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