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Neural Computation

July 1, 1998, Vol. 10, No. 5, Pages 1277-1297
(doi: 10.1162/089976698300017458)
© 1998 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Computational Studies of Lateralization of Phoneme Sequence Generation
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The mechanisms underlying cerebral lateralization of language are poorly understood. Asymmetries in the size of hemispheric regions and other factors have been suggested as possible underlying causal factors, and the corpus callosum (interhemispheric connections) has also been postulated to play a role. To examine these issues, we created a neural model consisting of paired cerebral hemispheric regions interacting via the corpus callosum. The model was trained to generate the correct sequence of phonemes for 50 monosyllabic words (simulated reading aloud) under a variety of assumptions about hemispheric asymmetries and callosal effects. After training, the ability of the full model and each hemisphere acting alone to perform this task was measured. Lateralization occurred readily toward the side having larger size, higher excitability, or higher learning-rate parameter. Lateralization appeared most readily and intensely with strongly inhibitory callosal connections, supporting past arguments that the effective functionality of the corpus callosum is inhibitory. Many of the results are interpretable as the outcome of a “race to learn” between the model's two hemispheric regions, leading to the concept that asymmetric hemispheric plasticity is a critical common causative factor in lateralization. To our knowledge, this is the first computational model to demonstrate spontaneous lateralization of function, and it suggests that such models can be useful for understanding the mechanisms of cerebral lateralization.