The influence of handedness on hemispheric representation of tools: A survey

Guido Gainotti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An important debate exists in contemporary cognitive neuroscience about the innate or experience-dependent origin of the brain representation of conceptual categories. The 'domains of knowledge' hypothesis maintains that innate factors subsume the categorical organization at the brain level of animals, plant life and artefacts. On the other hand, the 'sensory-motor model of conceptual knowledge' and the embodied cognition theory attribute this categorical organization to experience-dependent factors. I tried to clarify this issue by surveying the influence that handedness could have on the lateralization of tools representation in the inferior fronto-parietal and posterior middle temporal cortices of the left hemisphere. The underlying assumption was that, if this lateralization results from innate mechanisms, then handedness should not influence this hemispheric asymmetry. If, on the other hand, this lateralization is due to the motor and somatosensory experiences made with the right dominant hand during the manipulation of tools and other artefacts, then this asymmetry should be inverted or strongly attenuated in left-handers. Results of the review strongly suggest that manual experience acquired during tool manipulation can influence the hemispheric representation of tools and other artefacts. They also suggest, however, that handedness-related embodiment is not fixed, but influenced by personal motor experiences (such as those made by left-handers who have been forced to use their right hand) and by social visual experiences (such as the fact that, living in a right-handed world, left-handers see more people in their environment who use the right rather than the left hand) during tool manipulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-16
Number of pages7
JournalBrain and Cognition
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2015


  • Handedness
  • Innate factors
  • Left fronto-parietal areas
  • Manual experience
  • Tool use pantomimes
  • Tools representation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Medicine(all)


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