Ninety per cent of the human population has been right-handed since the Paleolithic, yet the brain signature and genetic basis of handedness remain poorly characterized. Here, we correlated brain imaging phenotypes from ∼9000 UK Biobank participants with handedness, and with loci found significantly associated with handedness after we performed genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in ∼400 000 of these participants. Our imaging-handedness analysis revealed an increase in functional connectivity between left and right language networks in left-handers. GWAS of handedness uncovered four significant loci (rs199512, rs45608532, rs13017199, and rs3094128), three of which are in-or expression quantitative trait loci of-genes encoding proteins involved in brain development and patterning. These included microtubule-related MAP2 and MAPT, as well as WNT3 and MICB, all implicated in the pathogenesis of diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and schizophrenia. In particular, with rs199512, we identified a common genetic influence on handedness, psychiatric phenotypes, Parkinson's disease, and the integrity of white matter tracts connecting the same language-related regions identified in the handedness-imaging analysis. This study has identified in the general population genome-wide significant loci for human handedness in, and expression quantitative trait loci of, genes associated with brain development, microtubules and patterning. We suggest that these genetic variants contribute to neurodevelopmental lateralization of brain organization, which in turn influences both the handedness phenotype and the predisposition to develop certain neurological and psychiatric diseases.
GWAS, Parkinson’s disease, arcuate fasciculus, handedness, microtubules