S Ocklenburg, P Friedrich, J Schmitz, C Schlüter, E Genç, O Güntürkün, J Peterburs and G Grimshaw

Beyond frontal alpha: Investigating hemispheric asymmetries over the EEG frequency spectrum as a function of sex and handedness


Frontal alpha EEG asymmetry, an indirect marker of asymmetries in relative frontal brain activity, are widely used in research on lateralization of emotional processing. While most authors focus on frontal electrode pairs (e.g., F3/F4 or F7/F8), several recent studies have indicated that EEG asymmetries can also be observed outside the frontal lobe and in frequency bands other than alpha. Because the focus of most EEG asymmetry research is on the correlations between asymmetry and other traits, much less is known about the distribution of patterns of asymmetry at the population level. To systematically assess these asymmetries in a representative sample, we determined EEG asymmetries across the head in the alpha, beta, delta and theta frequency bands in 235 healthy adults. We found significant asymmetries in all four frequency bands and across several brain areas, indicating that EEG asymmetries are not limited to frontal alpha. Asymmetries were not modulated by sex. They were modulated by direction of hand preference, with stronger right-handedness predicting greater right (relative to left) alpha power, or greater left (relative to right) activity. Taken together, the present results show that EEG asymmetries other than frontal alpha represent markers of asymmetric brain function that should be explored further.