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The ENIGMA Lateralization group aims to identify common genetic variants that influence left-right asymmetrical aspects of brain structure and function. Lateralization is an important organizing feature of the human brain yet its genetic and developmental basis is almost completely unknown. Language-related cerebral cortical regions and white matter tracts are well known to be structurally and functionally lateralized, with left-hemisphere dominance for language in the majority of people. Visuospatial cognition and hand motor control are also strongly lateralized. Structural left-right asymmetries are very noticeable around the Sylvian fissure but are also found in subcortical structures, which may act as developmental origins of broader asymmetrical development of the brain. Identifying genes involved in lateralization may yield insights into evolutionary processes that were important for the emergence of human cognition.
Our group works to identify and refine protocols for robustly measuring left-right brain asymmetries through automated techniques, so that these can be applied straightforwardly by as many groups as possible who are interested in contributing to genome-wide meta-analysis of these measures.
Some specific efforts underway:

    – GWAS meta-analysis for subcortical volumetric asymmetries. The data for measuring this (left and right volumes) have already been generated by many participating ENIGMA groups.
    – Identifying brain structural differences between left- and right-handed people, with the follow-up aim of targeting the implicated brain regions for GWAS meta-analysis.
    – Asymmetry of perisylvian regions and language-related cortical areas, with an immediate focus on improved automated measurement of these highly variable structures for the ultimate goal of GWAS meta-analysis.

If you are interested to join please email Clyde Francks ( at the Max Planck Institute and Donders Institute, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

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