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Effect of handedness on the occurrence of semantic N400 priming effect in 18- and 24-month-old children

Fagard, J and Sirri, L and Rämä, P (2014) Effect of handedness on the occurrence of semantic N400 priming effect in 18- and 24-month-old children. Frontiers in Psychology, 5. ISSN 1664-1078

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Abstract

It is frequently stated that right-handedness reflects hemispheric dominance for language. Indeed, most right-handers process phonological aspects of language with the left hemisphere (and other aspects with the right hemisphere). However, given the overwhelming majority of right-handers and of individuals showing left-hemisphere language dominance, there is a high probability to be right-handed and at the same time process phonology within the left hemisphere even if there was no causal link between both. One way to understand the link between handedness and language lateralization is to observe how they co-develop. In this study, we investigated to what extent handedness is related to the occurrence of a right-hemisphere lateralized N400 event related potential in a semantic priming task in children. The N400 component in a semantic priming task is more negative for unrelated than for related word pairs. We have shown earlier that N400 effect occurred in 24-month-olds over the right parietal-occipital recording sites, whereas no significant effect was obtained over the left hemisphere sites. In 18-month-olds, this effect was observed only in those children with higher word production ability. Since handedness has also been associated with the vocabulary size at these ages, we investigated the relationship between the N400 and handedness in 18- and 24-months as a function of their vocabulary. The results showed that right-handers had significantly higher vocabulary size and more pronounced N400 effect over the right hemisphere than non-lateralized children, but only in the 18-month-old group. We propose that the emergences of right-handedness and right-distributed N400 effect are not causally related, but that both developmental processes reflect a general tendency to recruit the hemispheres in a lateralized manner. The lack of this relationship at 24 months further suggests that there is no direct causal relation between handedness and language lateralization. © 2014 Fagard, Sirri and Rämä.

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