July 7, 2014
Men Born During Winter More Likely To Be Left-handed: Study
Men born in November, December or January are more likely of being left-handed than during the rest of the year. While the genetic bases of handedness are still under debate, scientists at the Faculty of Psychology, University of Vienna, obtained indirect evidence of a hormonal mechanism promoting left-handedness among men. Psychologist Ulrich Tran and his colleagues published their findings in the scientific journal "Cortex".
A hormonal cause during embryonic development
"Presumably, the relative darkness during the period November to January is not directly connected to this birth seasonality of handedness. We assume that the relative brightness during the period May to July, half a year before, is its distal cause," explains Ulrich Tran. A theory, brought forth in the 1980s by US neurologists Norman Geschwind and Albert Galaburda, posits that testosterone delays the maturation of the left brain hemisphere during embryonic development. The left brain hemisphere is dominant among right-handers, the right brain hemisphere is dominant among left-handers. Intrauterine testosterone levels are higher in the male fetus, because of its own testosterone secretion, than in the female fetus. However, the testosterone level of the mother and external factors may also affect intrauterine testosterone levels. Specifically, more daylight may increase testosterone levels, making a seasonality effect plausible.
Previous studies on the subject provided mixed and inconsistent evidence. There was no clear indication which season has an effect, and whether seasonality affects men, women or both sexes equally. According to the current findings, there is a small, but robust and replicable, effect of birth seasonality on handedness, affecting only men. These results are consistent with a hormonal basis of handedness, corroborating thus an old and controversial theory. However, the exact way of causation needs to be investigated in future studies.