Assessing non-right-handedness and atypical cerebral lateralisation as predictors of paediatric mental health difficulties

Zubin A. Irani, Andrew M.C. Sheridan, Nicholas A. Badcock, Allison Fox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Research utilising handedness as a proxy for atypical language lateralisation has invoked the latter to explain increased mental health difficulties in left-/mixed-handed children. The current study investigated unique associations between handedness and language lateralisation, handedness and mental health, and language lateralisation and mental health, in children, to elucidate the role of cerebral lateralisation in paediatric mental health. Participants were N = 64 (34 females [52%]; MAge = 8.56 years; SDAge = 1.33; aged 6–12 years) typically developing children. Hand preference was assessed via a reaching task, language lateralisation was assessed using functional transcranial Doppler ultrasonography (fTCD) during an expressive language task, and mental health was assessed with the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. As hypothesised, leftward hand preference predicted increased general mental health issues in children, with a strong relationship noted between leftward hand preference and the emotional symptoms subscale. Contrary to expectation, no relationship was found between direction of language lateralisation and general mental health issues, although exploratory analyses of subscales showed rightward lateralisation to predict conduct problems. Hand preference and direction of language lateralisation were also not significantly associated. The relatively weak relationship between manual and language laterality coupled with discrepancy regarding the predictive scope of each phenotype (i.e., hand preference predicts overall mental health, whereas language laterality predicts only conduct problems) suggests independent developmental pathways for these phenotypes. The role of manual laterality in paediatric mental health warrants further investigation utilising a neuroimaging method with higher spatial resolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4195-4210
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number10
Early online date11 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023


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