Structural and functional brain asymmetries in the early phases of life: a scoping review

Asymmetry characterizes the brain in both structure and function. Anatomical asymmetries explain only a fraction of functional variability in lateralization, with structural and functional asymmetries developing at different periods of life and in different ways. In this work, we perform a scoping review of the cerebral asymmetries in the first brain development phases. The reviewed literature shows large variability in the used techniques and methodological procedures. Most structural studies investigated the temporal lobe, showing a temporal planum more pronounced on the left than on the right (although not all data agree), a morphological asymmetry already present from the 29th week of gestation.   Unlike data on structural asymmetries, functional data agree with each other, identifying a leftward dominance for speech stimuli and an overall dominance of the right hemisphere in all other functional conditions. This generalized dominance of the right hemisphere for all conditions (except linguistic stimuli) is in line with theories stating that the right hemisphere develops earlier and that its development is less subject to external influences because it sustains functions necessary to survive.