Jason Flindall

I grew up in Nova Scotia, just outside of Halifax. I obtained a BSc in Biology from Dalhousie University in 2007 before I realized that Biology was no fun. So, I went back to school in 2009, this time in Lethbridge Alberta, aiming for a degree in Kinesiology. After a year, I was recruited into the graduate program there by Dr. Claudia Gonzalez; together we studied task-dependent kinematic asymmetries in reach-to-grasp actions (a fancy way of saying that you shape your right hand differently if you’re grasping-to-eat something, compared to when you’re grasping-to-place the same exact item). I received a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Lethbridge in August 2017, and officially joined the BAR lab as a postdoc about a week later.

My research focuses on a seemingly simple question: why are we right-handed? We are unique among the great apes in that some 90% of us prefer to use our right-hands for grasping, pointing, and other prehensile actions. However, there doesn’t seem to be any clear reason why this should be; we prefer to use our right hands for grasping, but our left hands are just as good (kinematically speaking) at accomplishing most everyday grasping tasks. Is our right-hand preference shaped by training? Maybe, but then again left-handers prefer to use their right hands for a surprising number of tasks, including some for which there is no obvious environmental reason (grasping very small items, for example). Hemispheric asymmetries in the brain? Maybe, but left/right hand use asymmetries can be found prenatally, before the brain is even connected to those hands. Is it some advantage in how we process right or left visual space? Maybe, but most evidence suggests a slight advantage for processing vision in the left hemifield.

So, why are we right-handed? If anyone knows, don’t tell me, I don’t want to ruin the surprise.