Are you a Southpaw? You probably have your mother or father to thank. That's the key conclusion of new research that shows genetics influences whether you are right handed or left handed.
The finding by a team of European scientists — from the Universities of Oxford, St. Andrews, Bristol and the Max Plank Institute in Nijmegen, the Netherlands — underscores the long-held belief that left-handedness is primarily inborn and is a trait that can't be easily learned or modified through retraining. The genes that help establish left-right differences are formed early in the brain, the researchers said.
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"The genes are involved in the biological process through which an early embryo moves on from being a round ball of cells and becomes a growing organism with an established left and right side," explained lead researcher William Brandler, with the MRC Functional Genomics Unit at Oxford University.
Brandler and colleagues, who detailed their findings in the Public Library of Science journal PLOS Genetics, noted humans are the only species to show a strong bias in handedness; about 90 percent of people are right handed. The cause of this bias remains largely a mystery.
To reach their conclusions, the researchers carried out a genome-wide study to identify common genes that might correlate with which hand people prefer using. One gene in particular — known as PCSK6 — was found to be involved in the early establishment of left and right in the growing embryo, and that others may also play a role.
But Brandler noted the findings do not completely explain the variation in handedness.
"As with all aspects of human behaviur, nature and nurture go hand-in-hand," he said. "The development of handedness derives from a mixture of genes, environment, and cultural pressure to conform to right-handedness."
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