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Are Lefties A Bit Sinister?

Are Lefties A Bit Sinister?

By Leila Sattary

Statistics show left-handed people are more likely to be schizophrenic, alcoholic and dyslexic as well as having an increased risk of other mental disabilities. Not only that, they are also more likely to die young and get into accidents. So if evolution dictates survival of the fittest, why are lefties not as dead as the dodo?

Handiness is primarily developed before birth; scientists have observed unborn babies showing a left-handed preference on ultrasound scans and then growing up to be left-handers. Recent research at Oxford University has discovered the ‘left-handed gene’ LRRTM1. However, they have also linked the lefty-gene to a predisposition to develop psychotic mental illness such as schizophrenia.

Dr Fred Kavalier from London’s Guy’s Hospital said ‘I don’t think left-handed people should be alarmed, there are many other factors that contribute to schizophrenia. This may be a tiny little element in the big jigsaw.’

Another theory suggests that, instead of being genetic, left-handiness could be caused by excess testosterone during pregnancy which may cause dominance of the right-hemisphere of the brain. Slower development of the left-hemisphere, which controls the verbal and analytical functions, could cause learning disabilities or autism.

In any case, the consensus is that lefties have more against them in life. They have society to blame as well as their genes. Everything from kitchen utensils to our right-to-left writing system is against them. Left-handers have been disadvantaged throughout history. Everything from Christian-Greek scriptures deeming them as evil to Japanese men, until only recently, being able to divorce their wives purely because they are left-handed.

In a right-handed world the lefty is at a disadvantage in certain respects. Research has shown that left-handers have a lower life expectancy which is mainly due to an increased rate of accidents. If you consider two right handed drivers in a head on collision, both will tend to turn to avoid the crash in the same way. However if one driver is a lefty then an accident is much more probable.

Scientists insist that the left-handed population should not worry. The statistics show just small increases in probability of all of the above. With regard to the left-handed-gene and schizophrenia, the research has only confirmed a weak correlation between the two.

However, an evolutionary theorist would point out that genetic traits which carry even a slight disadvantage would eventually be removed by natural selection. So why is left-handedness still around?

Scientists have suggested that evolution has at least given left handers a fighting chance. As a minority, lefties have an advantage in physical contests because righties aren’t used to competing against them. Translate this to modern times and you can observe it in sports. A recent paper assessed teams in the 2003 Cricket World Cup; they concluded that the best teams tended to have higher proportions of left handers and left-handed players were particularly effect against those not used to playing against them. Left handers may not have a physical advantage per se but they do have the element of surprise. After all Rocky Balboa was a southpaw and he pulled off a few shocks in his time. (Fifty famous left handers)

Left-handedness also confers a range of other benefits. There have been an above average number of famous successful left-handers which, it has been suggested, is due to their being more intelligent and creative. Not only that, recent research has indicated that they are better at IT and computer games.  There has been speculation for years that being good with computers can be a result of mild autism, and everyone's always thought that musicians and artists can be a bit bonkers.

  So even if lefties are more susceptible to mental disorders, at least you are more likely to be a genius before you go crazy!

Get more on Leila's homepage or follow the links below:

- Interesting - The people who hear colour
- We shouldn't laugh but - Top 5 narcoleptic dogs
- Brag - Check us out on the Telegraph website

Image: Phatpimpclothing

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11 Feb 2009
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