The Psychobiology of Affective Development

By Nathan A. Fox; Richard J. Davidson | Go to book overview

9
The Development of Functional Brain Asymmetry in the Regulation of Emotion

Sara L. Weber Harold A. Sackeim New York University and New York State Psychiatric Institute

Long-standing observations of mood in unilaterally brain-damaged patients have indicated that the sides of the brain differ in regulating emotion ( Alford, 1933; Babinski, 1914). Systematic study of this notion in patients with destructive and epileptogenic lesions, in psychiatric patients with affective disorders, and in normal samples has suggested that there is differential involvement of each side of the brain in particular types of affective states. One model that has been offered to account for these findings stipulates that in most individuals the right side of the brain subserves certain negative emotion to a greater extent than the left side, whereas the opposite holds for certain positive emotions ( Ahern & Schwartz, 1979; Sackeim, Greenberg, Weiman, Gur, Hungerbuhler & Geschwind, 1982; cf. Tucker, 1981).

If one looks at the phenomenon of functional brain asymmetry in the regulation of emotion from a developmental point of view many questions arise. How does this asymmetry develop? Does it exist at birth or even before? Does it develop and increase over time? Does it change direction at different stages of central nervous system growth and maturation? What are the relative contributions of genetically determined maturation and of experience? Are there sex differences in the development of affective lateralization? Research into these questions is only just beginning. The purpose of this chapter is to discuss a variety of issues that pertain to these questions and to propose possible avenues of exploration.

Preliminary research into the development of the functional brain asymmetry in the cognitive domain (in particular, language and handedness) seems to indicate some asymmetries are inborn (e.g., Davis & Wada, 1977; Entus, 1977; Kinsbourne, 1981; Lenneberg, 1967). As yet, the relations are not established

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