We have been asked by our friend Professor Chris McManus (University College London) to see if we can help find families with a lot of lefthanders for some new research that is being conducted. This is what he said…
Left- and right-handedness are almost certainly determined by genes in some way or another, as left-handedness undoubtedly runs in families. The genes have however proved elusive to find using standard methods, probably because there are a number of different genes which can be involved.
Dr Clyde Francks, a colleague of mine now working in Nijmegen in the Netherlands, is carrying out a study which takes a rather different approach. Clyde’s team is interested in families in which there are lots of left-handers, which then should allow the genes responsible to be identified as they pass between family members.
Work such as this does need very large extended families where there are a lot of left-handers. Clyde is really interested in families known to have at least TEN left-handers. These do not need to be immediate relatives such as parents and children, but can also include uncles, aunts, cousins, grandchildren and so on.
Clyde is also interested in families with somewhat smaller numbers of left-handers, as they can also be of importance once genes have been found. He doesn’t commit himself on what is meant by smaller, but if you can quickly think of four or five left-handers in the immediate family, then he is probably also interested.
The Max Planck Institute in Nijmegen has set up a secure website where people can register
If you think yours might be one of these unusual and interesting families, then Clyde and his colleagues would be grateful if you could go to the website to register and fill out a questionnaire on your family's handedness. Needless to say, if you have any questions about the project then Clyde is the person to go to (and his email address is on the website). However his team receives a high number of emails, so if you are interested to participate it is best to simply register and fill in the questionnaire.