University of Leicester eBulletin

Making Sense of Handedness

February 2003
No 51

A recent book, Handedness and Brain Asymmetry: The Right Shift Theory, by Marian Annett, Emeritus Reader in Psychology, has implications for ideas about 'human nature', how it evolved and how it influences us all.

The Right Shift Theory, developed through some 40 years research, seeks to explain the relationships between left and right-handedness, and left and right-brain specialisation. Dr Annett argues that a single gene has evolved in humans to aid the growth of speech in the left hemisphere of the brain, which incidentally shifts a chance distribution of handedness toward the right. Variability for this gene could throw light on why people differ in their talents, abilities and interests.

“The book is intended to be accessible to all readers, for the Right Shift Theory has possible relevance for educational progress, dyslexia, spatial reasoning, sporting skills and mental illness,” explains Dr Annett.

“The theory is not fixed or final, but opens up different ways of looking at old questions. It has led to many new surprises and discoveries that could not have been anticipated when it was first formulated.’ One of the most surprising was the idea that a mutant RS + gene might be involved in the causes of schizophrenia and autism. I am willing to collaborate, advise or consult on projects that have a handedness and brain asymmetry dimension.”

Neuropsychology has interested Dr Annett for many years and it has grown to be one of the dominant branches of psychology.

There is a plan for a campus web site invitation to participate in a questionnaire study of handedness and personality. When this is ready in a few weeks’ time, it is hoped there will be a good response from all members of the University.”

Handedness and Brain Asymmetry: The Right Shift Theory by Marian Annett, published by Psychology Press, 2002, price £49.95, hardback.

NOTE TO EDITORS:   Further information is available from Marian Annett, email doc@le.ac.uk, telephone 0116 252 2182 .

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