Symmetries in human brain language pathways correlate with verbal recall

Marco Catani*, Matthew P.G. Allin, Masud Husain, Luca Pugliese, Marsel M. Mesulam, Robin M. Murray, Derek K. Jones

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

492 Scopus citations


Lateralization of language to the left hemisphere is considered a key aspect of human brain organization. We used diffusion tensor MRI to perform in vivo virtual dissection of language pathways to assess the relationship between brain asymmetry and cognitive performance in the normal population. Our findings suggest interhemispheric differences in direct connections between Broca's and Wernicke's territories, with extreme leftward lateralization in more than half of the subjects and bilateral symmetrical distribution in only 17.5% of the subjects. Importantly, individuals with more symmetric patterns of connections are better overall at remembering words using semantic association. Moreover, preliminary analysis suggests females are more likely to have a symmetrical pattern of connections. These findings suggest that the degree of lateralization of perisylvian pathways is heterogeneous in the normal population and, paradoxically, bilateral representation, not extreme lateralization, might ultimately be advantageous for specific cognitive functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17163-17168
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number43
StatePublished - Oct 23 2007


  • Arcuate fasciculus
  • Brain asymmetry
  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Language lateralization
  • Verbal memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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