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A longitudinal examination of perinatal testosterone, estradiol and vitamin D as predictors of handedness outcomes in childhood and adolescence.

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Gareth RichardsORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


The developmental origins of handedness remain elusive, though very early emergence suggests individual differences manifesting in utero could play an important role. Prenatal testosterone and Vitamin D exposure are considered, yet findings and interpretations remain equivocal. We examined n=767 offspring from a population-based pregnancy cohort (The Raine Study) for whom early biological data and childhood/adolescent handedness data were available. We tested whether 18-week maternal circulatory Vitamin D, and testosterone and estradiol from umbilical cord blood sampled at birth predicted variance in direction of hand preference (right/left), along with right- and left-hand speed, and the strength and direction of relative hand skill as measured by a finger-tapping task completed at 10 (Y10) and/or 16 (Y16) years. Although higher concentrations of Vitamin D predicted more leftward and less lateralised (regardless of direction) relative hand skill profiles, taken as a whole, statistically significant findings typically did not replicate across time-point (Y10/Y16) or sex (male/female) and were rarely detected across different (bivariate/multivariate) levels of analysis. Considering the number of statistical tests and generally inconsistent findings, our results suggest that perinatal testosterone and estradiol contribute minimally, if at all, to subsequent variance in handedness. Vitamin D, however, may be of interest in future studies.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Richards G, Tan DW, Whitehouse AJO, McManus IC, Beaton AA, Hickey M, Maybery MT, Licari MK, Lawson L

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Laterality: Asymmetries of Brain, Behaviour, and Cognition

Year: 2022

Pages: epub ahead of print

Online publication date: 06/08/2022

Acceptance date: 31/07/2022

Date deposited: 31/07/2022

ISSN (print): 1357-650X

ISSN (electronic): 1464-0678

Publisher: Taylor & Francis


DOI: 10.1080/1357650X.2022.2109656


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Funder referenceFunder name
Andrew Whitehouse is supported by an Investigator Grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council (1173896).
BrightSpark Research Collaboration Award from the Raine Medical Research Foundation (BRCA01-19)
British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Small Research Grant (SRG1819\190620) awarded to Gareth Richards
National Health and Medical Research Council
SRG1819\190620British Academy