Old 06-21-2003, 12:11 PM
Pepper Pepper is offline
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 32
The Left-Handed Syndrome

In the For What It's Worth Category -- would like to share with you an article I wrote (under my pen name). Thoughts and observations welcome.

The LEFT HANDED SYNDROME (c) 2003 by Joni Blaylock

Do you belong to a family possessing three or more left-handed members? Then there are several things you might like to know.

Some are things that many would find favorable “curses.” For one thing, you’re more likely to have higher levels of testosterone (“rogue” testosterone -- a hormone level less than well controlled)-- indicating an acutely high and sometimes less-controlled sex drive, as well as greater likelihood of having genius-like aptitude for art, music, math and engineering.

But there are a lot of less desirable health syndromes affecting families possessing several left handed members (Left Handed Families or “LHF”) -- many disorders brought on partially BECAUSE you have a couple extra shots of “rogue” testosterone flowing in your blood.

Because Left Handedness is caused by a very specific differences in how embryonic brain cells (developing for speech/language) MIGRATE and DEVELOP. And families possessing many left handers are genetically linked to a NUMBER of syndromes that happen with considerably higher frequency than in “right handed families.” Much of the problem appears to be traceable to higher-than-normal levels of testosterone during fetal development--affecting changes in the way certain brain cells “migrate” and develop.

These syndromes are rather unique and particular -- tending to manifest in LHF” most predominantly as BEHAVIORAL Disorders in Males BEFORE puberty and in IMMUNILOGIC disorders in Females AFTER puberty. There are “cross-overs” certainly -- all LHF “disorders,” behavioral or immunologic, can affect either
gender -- but these disorders manifest much more often than in families with few or no left handers.

Some of the “male linked behavioral disorders” include Autism (incl. Autistic Savants), Dyslexia, OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) Aphasia, ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), Asperger’s Syndrome, Stuttering, Depression, Fragile X, Schizophrenia.

Some of the “female linked immunilogic disorders” include Asthma, Migraines, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Myasthenia Gravis, Scleroderma, Psoriasis, Excema, Ulcerative Colitis.

This “Left Handed Syndrome” (my term, not those of the authors) is described more completely in Chapters 13 and 14 of the book Sex And the Brain by Jo Durden-Smith and Diane Desimone, ISBN# 0-87795-484-4, published by Arbor House. This entire book is a “can’t put down” read, so I highly encourage anyone to find a copy of it -- I swear you will read it cover to cover. Since much of my information on which I base this article comes from this book, and because I have no idea of it’s out-of-print status or availability, I will be quoting it heavily here. Their arguments are central to the point of this article and I cannot translate many of their observations in better words than they have themselves. (They are credited below--this article is not written for remuneration purposes. I trust they will not mind my heavily quoting their volume, which can surely only benefit their reputation and success).

Most of the time we look at a disorder and see it in terms of itself, not necessarily concluding it may be connected, even genetically to a number of other disorders. Since so many of the population is affected by these disorders, it is important to understand if and how they MIGHT be linked, should some insight help us ameliorate any effects.

Some of the first realizations regarding the genetic linkage between left-handedness-linked disorders began at a meeting in November of 1982 between Norman Geschwind, the James Jackson Putnam Professor of Neurology at Harvard University (considered then by his peers to be “the best neurologist in America”) and Robert Lahita, Asst. Professor of Immunology at the Rockefeller Center in New York.

Geschwind’s forte was the “so-called developmental disorders which affect the left hemisphere and language ability and strike human males more often than females --disorders primarily affecting males before puberty.

Lahita’s special interest was auto-immune diseases in which the immune system, instead of attacking “non-self,”begins attacking “self”--disorders primarily affecting women usually AFTER puberty.

What did they have in common? They learned they BOTH were in the same “genetic” family -- that cell migration and arrangement in their brains was similar -- the same skewed cell disorganization manifested one way in male individuals and another way in females OF THE SAME FAMILY, even when many (if not most) of that family’s members ARE actually right handed. The following quotes from the book should explain this in better detail.

“Both left handedness and learning disorders are the end result of the same DEVELOPMENTAL process, a process in which the usual pattern of left-hemisphere dominance for language is altered in the womb. Painfully little is yet known about this . . . But there are two asymmetries in areas of the brain that are important for language that appear in fetuses, newborns and adults. And they seem to be less marked in left-handers--that is, their left and right hemispheres seem to be more similar. At the same time, there is another, much BIGGER asymmetry in humans that usually distinguishes between left and right hemisphere-- the right hemisphere is wider and projects more at the front,
while the left hemisphere is wider and projects more at the back [of the brain]. This too can be found in newborn infants. But it is much less marked in many left-handers, and it is sometimes actually REVERSED in the brains of schizophrenics, autistic children and dyslexics.

“This argues not for brain damage but for some skewing developmental pattern that proceeds to a certain point in left-handers but is even more exaggerated--it goes further-- in people suffering from these disorders. And there is one more piece of evidence that this is so. In 1979, Albert Galaburda and Thomas Kemper, colleagues of Norman Geschwind’s at the Harvard Medical School, examined the brain of a dyslexic man who had died in an accident. The man was left-handed, as were his father and three brothers, also slow readers. And his brain seemed to show why. First, the language areas in the temporal lobes showed little or no asymmetry, unlike the case in the majority of brains. and second, in his left hemisphere, in the same language area, there was an abnormal arrangement of tissues and cells. Cell layers were disorganized, and cells and islands of cortical tissue had somehow MIGRATED to the wrong place.

“Galaburda has since examined a second dyslexic brain, and he has found a similar pattern of disorganization. Norman Geschwind is quite clear about what this means. ‘What happened in these two brains . . . and perhaps in the brains of many, if not all dyslexics is a miswiring of the actual basic structure of the brain. It couldn’t have been caused by mechanical injury, internal bleeding or a cutoff in the blood supply during or after birth. It MUST have occurred during the formation of the brain tissue in the womb.’

“If this is so, then precisely how does it work its effects on behavior? What OTHER similarities are there between
left-handers and dyslexics and the people, usually male, who suffer from autism, stuttering and so on? How do they differ from a group of right-handers? Well, in right-handers, the left hemisphere almost always controls speech-related activities, language abilities. But this isn’t true of left-handers. In many, perhaps the majority of left-handers, there is a diminished degree of left-hemisphere ascendency over language. And the same applies, to an even MORE marked degree, perhaps, to stutterers, autistic children and dyslexics, WHETHER THEY ARE LEFT HANDED OR NOT. Their problem, in other words, is not simply that they have some brain damage or failure in the
development in the LEFT hemisphere. It is that the whole functional relationship between the two halves of their brains has been altered from normal. Stutterers, for example, have been shown in recent studies ot have bilateral representation of sppech and to use language areas on both sides of the brain, EXCEPT when affected by a drug that causes them to stop stuttering. Dyslexics, on the basis of tests designed by Sandra Witelson, have bilateral representation of visual-spacial function, at least. And they too may have some language abilities on the “wrong”side of the brain.

“In autism the pattern may be similar. Children usually become, or ar observed to be, autistic before the age of three. They are socially aloof and indifferent and preoccupied with repetitive routines. They are very resistant to any change in their regimen. And they often fail to develop, or have severe abnormalities in, both verbal and spatial skills. They are extremely difficult to test, then, by comparison with normal children. But, even so, the available evidence all points in the same direction. Some autistic children, as we have mentioned, have the same lack of brain
asymmetry, shown opn the CAT scan, as some dyslexics. And they also show similar patterns of brainwave activity over BOTH hemispheres, unlike normal children. It looks again, then ,as if the usual left-right balance has been fundamentally altered in them in some way. The result may be what it is reasonable to think we see in autism: a complete suppression or chaotic redistribution of left-hemispheric language and the keying-up to a painful pitch of right-hemisphere visual-spatial perception.

“Ten percent of autistic children show what amounts to genius in some highly circumscribed area of visual-spatial ability [i.e., art, music, mathematics]. Despite their handicaps, they can be remarkable mathematicians or calendrical calculators. They can build awesomely elaborate mechanical devices. Or they can draw or play music brilliantly--all right-hemisphere skills. There is some evidence, interestingly enough that their ABILITIES FADE [my emphasis] when their disorder abates, as it sometimes does.

The Orton Society meetings attract a larg number of dyslexics, their relatives, and many medical teachers and professionals. ’Now,’ Norman Geschwind addressed them “in the speakers’ room at the November 1982 meeting of the Orton Dyslexia Society, ‘what principal can we find that will tie together the unusual pattern of cerebral dominance that seem to be found in these conditions and the fact that it’s MALES who are usually affected? Well, there’s evidence that the cells that are going to form the cerebral cortex take shape in the central core of the fetus’ brain before it’s five months old. But there’s evidence to suggest that they mature and migrate at different rates, depending on which hemisphere they are headed for. The right hemisphere, it appears, develops earlier. And this is probably the result of some influence which is slowing down growth of the left. This lag in the maturation of the left hemisphere will be found, I think, to be more pronounced in male fetuses.’

“What Geschwind suggests is that the factor most likely to be responsible for slowing down the growth of the left hemisphere is testosterone. For testosterone, as work done in the laboratory of Roger Gorski, Gunter Dorner and Marian Diamond, for example, points up, does affect the development of certain structures in the brains of rats. And since testosterone may slow down the rate at which the cells migrate and gather in the left hemisphere, Geschwind believes that the left hemisphere delay will be greater in male fetuses who are typically exposed to much higher levels of this hormone in the uterus than females. Consequently, it favors the development in them of the RIGHT hemisphere. ‘This would account, you see, for the prevalence of left-handedness in males. And it would also account for nalaburda’s findings in dyslexics of an anomalous migration of nerve cells to the language area of the left hemisphere. Some altered balance of testosterone during the critical period of the left hemisphere’s development is likely . . . to be involved--as it is likely to be involved in the other learning disorders that differentially strike

Some of the reasoning is linked to studies such as one “in late 1982, and Israeli group provided some evidence that autism is not only LINKED to an auto-immune disease, but is ITSELF an auto-immune disease. Another is the possible genetic connection recently found by Shelley Smith, then of the University of Miami, between dyslexia and a gene on chromosome 15 which might, Normal Geschwing suggests, be the same chromosome 15 gene that codes for a protein basic to both testosterone production AND the setting up of the immune system. Also, it’s possible a gene or genes on chromosome 6 is responsible for ANOTHER disorder in which testosterone works to affect brain organization and behavior-- CAH.

“In CAH, remember, high levels of testosterone are produced by the fetal adrenal glands, because an enzyme is missing that is necessary for the routine production of cortisol, the hormone involved in stress. And stress, of course is a THIRD feature many of the auto-immune diseases, and migraine, share. They are often brought on by stress and exacerbated by stress. It looks as if something has gone profoundly wrong in them, as in CAH, with the basic chemistry of stress. This immediately gives them something in common with depression and schizophrenia, which have ALSO been linked with genes on chromosome 6; with anorexia nervosa, perhaps, and with the male homosexuals made in the womb, Gunter Dorner believes, as the result of stress on the pregnant mother.”

After one lecture on this subject, Geschwind was flooded with Dyslexic family members suffering from all of these syndromes. Soon after the Orton Society meeting, Geshwind got in touch with a former student of his, Peter Behan, then of the University of Glasgow, and they devised a questionnaire about handedness, learning disabilities and auto-immune disorders. They distributed it to two British populations and separated them out by people who were STRONGLY left handed or STRONGLY right handed. This is what they found:

“Left handers have 10x the amount of learning disabilities, 2 1/2 times the amount of auto-immune disorders (particularly of the thyroid gland and the gut). And the incidence of these disabilities is much higher in the RELATIVES of the left-handers too. They have 3x the rate of learning disabilities and 2x the amount of immune disorders.”* They also did studies that confirmed there is a connection to left-handedness and migraine, dyslexia and ulcerative colitis (the latter another auto-immune disease).

The text goes on, as in the following separate quotes:

“Here at last we have something that can connect the learning disorders, left-handedness and auto-immune diseases that Normand Geschwind and Peter Behan have found in the same populations -- testosterone. Testosterone, as we have said, acts to produce the NORMAL pattern of cerebral dominance and lateralization in right-handed males. But it ALSO acts as a depressor of the immune system; it shrinks the thymus, the gland beneath the breastbone that is responsible for the production of T-cells. LOW levels of testosterone in the fetus, therefore, might very well have TWO separate effects. It might ALTER the normal patterns of brain organization and cell migration. And it might drastically INCREASE the efficiency of the immune system. The result may be what Geschwind and Behan have found--an association between left-handedness, learning disorders, and an immune system too highly geared up for the body’s own good.” [Too aggressive, perhaps?]

“We DO know that all of these systems interact: the genes, the sex hormones, the stress hormones, the neurotransmitters of the brain and nervous system, and the cells of the immune system.”

“. . . there’s no single gene as such for dyslexia or autism or depression or homosexuality. All there are are interlocking sets of potentials or predispositions which can be forced into expression by the environment, [but] most IMPORTANTLY, in the first place, by the hormonal and immune environment in the womb.”*

“It can be predicted that dyslexics and their relatives have a high incidence of early white or gray hair, which is often found along auto-immune diseases and which may itself represent an immune-attack on the pigment-forming cells of the hair follicles.”*

Lefthanders include Prince William, Michaelangelo, Tom Cruise, Diane Keaton, Lisa Kudrow, Joanne Woodward, Nicole Kidman, Marilyn Monroe, Angelina Jolie, Shirley Jones, the Olsen twins.

In wrapping up, I must confess a lot of my interest in this subject is part of a self study, for while I’m right handed, my mother, daughter and grandson are left handed. (Mother’s left hand was tied behind her back as a child to force her to write with her right. I think that was a major cruelty.)

My close family members and myself have suffered with combinations of asthma, RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis), migraines, ADHD, depression, and excema to name a few. Yet many of us play several musical instruments, seem very artistic and have high math aptitude, so the skewed right handed stuff is there too. But the high stress tendency and emotional lack of balance has been of considerable heartache in our lives -- so it’s nice from my standpoing to be able to finally understand why we react different (less balanced often) emotionally, and why stress may wire us up too tight, and bring on many of the disorders that tends to befall us more than primarily right handed populations.

Some Soapbox Comments :

In a final note, I believe we need to keep our awareness sharp about how these multi-connected disorders may be at
the root of not stress disorders that go extremely out of control in our society -- as in what seems to cause people to “break”, killing their families and/or themselves. I think it is MORE than appropriate for us to study whether this FAMILY of disorders isn’t behind most of the worst emotional upsets that humans “break under.” Certainly SOMETHING is wrong, and as ALL behavior is brain-controlled, one has a right to question how the most pushy, extreme of hormones in the body -- testosterone, is doing its job in any of us. It CAN be out of whack. Because it does so many things for us we LIKE, though, I think we are EXTRA PREJUDICED in FAVOR of all extreme testosterone activities. They are fun, they are amazingly addictive. But they often carry us too far as well, and we have to admit. We may be at times “addicted” to our own body, strange as that may sound.

But we have to agree Extreme Behavior is almost ALWAYS powered by extreme and overly-aggressive emotions.
And what one chemical in our body seeks the edge the most? So at least it is good if we have AWARENESS that part of our problem may be that pushy hormone flexing its muscles in us--aware enough to not let it carry us away.

But this study certainly makes some interesting statements about what can is happening with more frequency in some families. And it’s kind of nice to know that if we (people in families with lots of left-handedness) seem a little crazy sometimes, and are more likely to live closer to the edge than Right Handed Families do, there are actual biologic reasons behind it. Nice to know we’re not crazy for no REASON at least, lol.

* All quoted material in this article comes from chapters 13 and 14 of the book Sex And The Brain, (c) 1983 by Jo Durden-Smith and Diane Desimone.
Old 06-21-2003, 04:00 PM
Cardinal Cardinal is offline
Charter Member
Charter Member
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: 742 Evergreen Terrace
Posts: 6,229
You are so going to catch it. I'm sorry.

Please don't post copyrighted material here, except for very brief quotes. The newspaper that runs this board (for free!) has quite an interest in defending and upholding copyright law.

A moderator will be by soon to erase most of your post.
Old 06-21-2003, 04:06 PM
lovelyluka lovelyluka is offline
Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: Tennessee, USA
Posts: 421
Even if Pepper is the author of the article?
Old 06-21-2003, 08:13 PM
Cardinal Cardinal is offline
Charter Member
Charter Member
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: 742 Evergreen Terrace
Posts: 6,229
I'm a dunce. Sorry. Ignore me.

Old 06-21-2003, 10:20 PM
ParentalAdvisory ParentalAdvisory is offline
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: The Chicago Area
Posts: 5,956

And welcome to the SDMB!
Old 06-21-2003, 10:43 PM
kohler kohler is offline
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: texas
Posts: 3

in the five in my immdiate family (2 siblings and parents) 3 of us are lefties.

thanks for sharing that!
Old 06-21-2003, 10:53 PM
IUHomer IUHomer is offline
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 169
The main problem I have with this is that even among left handed people, the majority are still left hemisphere dominant for language. That makes me question the link between language development and handedness.
Old 06-21-2003, 10:57 PM
IUHomer IUHomer is offline
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 169
Sorry for the double post, but, furthermore, Autism is not really a diagnosis. Its a symptom. Same with Aphasia, which is also mentioned. There are a number of disorders that can cause the symptoms of Autism.
Old 06-21-2003, 11:09 PM
Zenster Zenster is offline
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Silicon Valley
Posts: 9,515
Us left handers are the only ones in our right minds!

Just had to sneak that in right now.

I'll be back to post more comments and many questions to this intensely intriguing thread.

Thanks, Pepper, and welcome aboard(s)!
Old 06-22-2003, 04:50 AM
Pepper Pepper is offline
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 32
Thanks All For Your Comments

And for the great welcome all, as well! What a fascinating place to exchange thoughts!

Yes, I am the author of the article so the copyright is just to take responsibility for the text, particularly since I drew heavily from a published book (which I attempted to appropriately credit.)

And it's true, 85% of all people (left or right handed) have speech centers on the left hemisphere in the "right" place, so naturally nothing here is hard and fast (and of course the actual chapters I quote from go into much more scientific detail so I may not have included everything pertinent that would fill out the picture in a more complete way).

But I think most will agree the theory is interesting at least, and seemed worth throwing out in the ring in case anyone feels they can gain some insight from it. It sure connected a lot of dots in my family.

So thanks again for everyone's comments, and nice to meet all of you!


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 10:30 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright © 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

Copyright © 2017