Brain asymmetry has been observed in animals and humans in terms of structure, function and behaviour. This lateralization is thought to reflect evolutionary, hereditary, developmental, experiential and pathological factors. Here, we review the diverse literature describing brain asymmetries, focusing primarily on anatomical differences between the hemispheres and on the methods that have been used to detect them. Brain-mapping approaches, in particular, can identify and visualize patterns of asymmetry in whole populations, including subtle alterations that occur in disease, with age and during development. These and other tools show great promise for assessing factors that modulate cognitive specialization in the brain, including the ontogeny, phylogeny and genetic determinants of brain asymmetry.
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