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Monday, October 26, 1998 Published at 18:06 GMT


Education

Hand signals to learning ability

Very right or left-handed pupils could be slower learners

Right or left-handed handedness could be linked to learning ability.

Researchers at the University of Oxford are investigating how the extent to which children are right or left handed can be connected to their educational development.

The university's Department of Psychiatry and the Prince of Wales International Centre are following up earlier research which suggested that children who were excessively right or left handed were more likely to have learning difficulties.

In the initial research, children at the age of 11 were examined to find those unusually dependent on a single hand, a distinction which seemed to be linked to performing less well in numeracy and literacy.


[ image: Researchers want to explore genetic links between ability and 'handedness']
Researchers want to explore genetic links between ability and 'handedness'
This underperformance was also found to affect children who were ambidextrous.

This above-average right or left handedness would not necessarily be apparent to parents, but could be identified in tests.

The researchers now want to test a further 200 families to explore correlations between 'handedness' and ability and will consider how genetic factors might influence this.

"We think handedness is determined by a gene which may be found on one or both of the sex chromosomes," said Professor Tim Crow, director of the Prince of Wales International Centre, a research unit established in Oxford by the mental health charity, Sane.

"We know that girls generally do better than boys at this age. If we can establish in this study that there is a link to their handedness, we will help demonstrate that these learning differences between boys and girls are something to do with this gene."

The new study will be funded by Sane and the Medical Research Council.

Anyone wanting to take part in the study should e-mail Judith Rue at the university's Department of Psychiatry on judith.rue@ox.ac.uk



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