The Origin of Human Handedness and its Role in Pre-Birth Motor Control


The vast majority of humans are right-handed, but how and when this bias emerges during human ontogenesis is still unclear. We propose an approach that explains postnatal handedness starting from 18 gestational weeks using a kinematic analysis of different fetal arm movements recorded during ultrasonography. Based on the hand dominance reported postnatally at age 9, the fetuses were classified as right-handed (86%) or left-handed, in line with population data. We revealed that both right-handed and left-handed fetuses were faster to reach to targets requiring greater precision (i.e., eye and mouth), with their dominant (vs. non-dominant) hand. By using either movement times or deceleration estimates, handedness can be inferred with a classification accuracy ranging from 89 to 100% from gestational week 18. The reliability of this inference hints to the yet unexplored potential of standard ultrasonography to advance our understanding of prenatal life.

Scientific Reports, (7), 1, pp. 16804
Valentina Parma
Valentina Parma
Research Assistant Professor in Psychology