Hemispheric specialization in affective responses, cerebral dominance for language, and handedness Lateralization of emotion, language, and dexterity

Elsa Yolanda Costanzo, Mirta Villarreal, Lucas Javier Drucaroff, Manuel Ortiz-Villafañe, Mariana Nair Castro, Micaela Goldschmidt, Agustina Edith Wainsztein, María Soledad Ladrón-de-Guevara, Carlos Romero, Luis Ignacio Brusco, Joan A. Camprodon, Charles Nemeroff, Salvador Martín Guinjoan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Hemispheric specialization in affective responses has received little attention in the literature. This is a fundamental variable to understand circuit dynamics of networks subserving emotion. In this study we put to test a modified "valence" hypothesis of emotion processing, considering that sadness and happiness are processed by each hemisphere in relation to dominance for language and handedness. Mood induction and language activation during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) were used in 20 right-handed and 20 nonright-handed subjects, focusing on interconnected regions known to play critical roles in affective responses: subgenual cingulate cortex, amygdala, and anterior insular cortex. We observed a consistent relationship between lateralization of affective processing, motor dexterity, and language in individuals with clear right-handedness. Sadness induces a greater activation of right-hemisphere cortical structures in right-handed, left-dominant individuals, which is not evident in nonright-handed subjects who show no consistent hemispheric dominance for language. In anterior insula, right-handed individuals displayed reciprocal activation of either hemisphere depending upon mood valence, whereas amygdala activation was predominantly left-sided regardless of mood valence. Nonright-handed individuals exhibited less consistent brain lateralization of affective processing regardless of language and motor dexterity lateralization. In contrast with traditional views on emotion processing lateralization, hemispheric specialization in affective responses is not a unitary process but is specific to the brain structure being activated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-19
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
StatePublished - Jul 5 2015


  • Amygdala
  • Anterior insula
  • Emotion
  • FMRI
  • Lateralization
  • Subgenual cingulate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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