Survival with an asymmetrical brain: advantages and disadvantages of cerebral lateralization.

Department of Psychology and B.R.A.I.N. Centre for Neuroscience, University of Trieste, 34123 Trieste, Italy.
Behavioral and Brain Sciences (Impact Factor: 18.57). 09/2005; 28(4):575-89; discussion 589-633. DOI: 10.1017/S0140525X05000105
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Recent evidence in natural and semi-natural settings has revealed a variety of left-right perceptual asymmetries among vertebrates. These include preferential use of the left or right visual hemifield during activities such as searching for food, agonistic responses, or escape from predators in animals as different as fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. There are obvious disadvantages in showing such directional asymmetries because relevant stimuli may be located to the animal's left or right at random; there is no a priori association between the meaning of a stimulus (e.g., its being a predator or a food item) and its being located to the animal's left or right. Moreover, other organisms (e.g., predators) could exploit the predictability of behavior that arises from population-level lateral biases. It might be argued that lateralization of function enhances cognitive capacity and efficiency of the brain, thus counteracting the ecological disadvantages of lateral biases in behavior. However, such an increase in brain efficiency could be obtained by each individual being lateralized without any need to align the direction of the asymmetry in the majority of the individuals of the population. Here we argue that the alignment of the direction of behavioral asymmetries at the population level arises as an "evolutionarily stable strategy" under "social" pressures occurring when individually asymmetrical organisms must coordinate their behavior with the behavior of other asymmetrical organisms of the same or different species.

1 Bookmark
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: There are two major theories that attempt to explain hand preference in non-human primates-the 'task complexity' theory and the 'postural origins' theory. In the present study, we proposed a third hypothesis to explain the evolutionary origin of hand preference in non-human primates, stating that it could have evolved owing to structural and functional adaptations to feeding, which we refer to as the 'niche structure' hypothesis. We attempted to explore this hypothesis by comparing hand preference across species that differ in the feeding ecology and niche structure: red howler monkeys, Alouatta seniculus and yellow-breasted capuchin monkeys, Sapajus xanthosternos. The red howler monkeys used the mouth to obtain food more frequently than the yellow-breasted capuchin monkeys. The red howler monkeys almost never reached for food presented on the opposite side of a wire mesh or inside a portable container, whereas the yellow-breasted capuchin monkeys reached for food presented in all four spatial arrangements (scattered, on the opposite side of a wire mesh, inside a suspended container, and inside a portable container). In contrast to the red howler monkeys that almost never acquired bipedal and clinging posture, the yellow-breasted capuchin monkeys acquired all five body postures (sitting, bipedal, tripedal, clinging, and hanging). Although there was no difference between the proportion of the red howler monkeys and the yellow-breasted capuchin monkeys that preferentially used one hand, the yellow-breasted capuchin monkeys exhibited an overall weaker hand preference than the red howler monkeys. Differences in hand preference diminished with the increasing complexity of the reaching-for-food tasks, i.e., the relatively more complex tasks were perceived as equally complex by both the red howler monkeys and the yellow-breasted capuchin monkeys. These findings suggest that species-specific differences in feeding ecology and niche structure can influence the perception of the complexity of the task and, consequently, hand preference.
    PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(10):e107838. · 3.53 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Access the most recent version at J Exp Biol Advance Online Articles. First posted online on 30 October 2014 as doi:10.1242/jeb.111229
    Journal of Experimental Biology 10/2014; · 3.24 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The pervasive nature of handedness across human history and cultures is a salient consequence of brain lateralization. This paper presents evidence that provides a structure for understanding the motor control processes that give rise to handedness. According to the Dynamic Dominance Model, the left hemisphere (in right handers) is proficient for processes that predict the effects of body and environmental dynamics, while the right hemisphere is proficient at impedance control processes that can minimize potential errors when faced with unexpected mechanical conditions, and can achieve accurate steady-state positions. This model can be viewed as a motor component for the paradigm of brain lateralization that has been proposed by Rogers et al. (MacNeilage et al., 2009) that is based upon evidence from a wide range of behaviors across many vertebrate species. Rogers proposed a left-hemisphere specialization for well-established patterns of behavior performed in familiar environmental conditions, and a right hemisphere specialization for responding to unforeseen environmental events. The dynamic dominance hypothesis provides a framework for understanding the biology of motor lateralization that is consistent with Roger's paradigm of brain lateralization.
    Frontiers in Psychology 01/2014; 5:1092. · 2.80 Impact Factor

Full-text (2 Sources)

Available from
May 29, 2014