Clyde Francks


  • Rivera-Olvera, A., Houwing, D. J., Ellegood, J., Masifi, S., Martina, S., Silberfeld, A., Pourquie, O., Lerch, J. P., Francks, C., Homberg, J. R., van Heukelum, S., & Grandjean, J. (2023). The universe is asymmetric, the mouse brain too. bioRxiv, 2023.09.01.555907. doi:10.1101/2023.09.01.555907.


    Hemispheric brain asymmetry is a basic organizational principle of the human brain and has been implicated in various psychiatric conditions, including autism spectrum disorder. Brain asymmetry is not a uniquely human feature and is observed in other species such as the mouse. Yet, asymmetry patterns are generally nuanced, and substantial sample sizes are required to detect these patterns. In this pre-registered study, we use a mouse dataset from the Province of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Network, which comprises structural MRI data from over 2000 mice, including genetic models for autism spectrum disorder, to reveal the scope and magnitude of hemispheric asymmetry in the mouse. Our findings demonstrate the presence of robust hemispheric asymmetry in the mouse brain, such as larger right hemispheric volumes towards the anterior pole and larger left hemispheric volumes toward the posterior pole, opposite to what has been shown in humans. This suggests the existence of species-specific traits. Further clustering analysis identified distinct asymmetry patterns in autism spectrum disorder models, a phenomenon that is also seen in atypically developing participants. Our study shows potential for the use of mouse models in studying the biological bases of typical and atypical brain asymmetry but also warrants caution as asymmetry patterns seem to differ between humans and mice.
  • Schijven, D., Soheili-Nezhad, S., Fisher, S. E., & Francks, C. (2023). Exome-wide analysis implicates rare protein-altering variants in human handedness. bioRxiv, 10.1101/2023.05.31.543042. doi:10.1101/2023.05.31.543042.


    Handedness is a manifestation of brain hemispheric specialization. Left-handedness occurs at increased rates in eurodevelopmental disorders. Genome-wide association studies have identified common genetic effects on handedness or brain asymmetry, which mostly involve variants outside protein-coding regions and may affect gene expression. Implicated genes include several that encode tubulins (microtubule components) or microtubule-associated proteins. Here we examined whether left-handedness is also influenced by rare coding variants (frequencies ≤ 1%), using exome data from 38,043 left-handed and 313,271 right-handed individuals (UK Biobank). The beta-tubulin gene TUBB4B showed exome-wide significant association, with a rate of rare coding variants 2.7 times higher in left-handers (0.076%) than right-handers (0.028%). The TUBB4B variants were mostly heterozygous missense changes, but included two frameshifts found only in left-handers. Other TUBB4B variants have been linked to sensorineural and/or ciliopathic disorders, but not the variants found here. Among genes previously implicated in autism or schizophrenia by exome screening, DSCAM and FOXP1 showed evidence for rare coding variant association with left-handedness. The exome-wide heritability of left-handedness due to rare coding variants was 0.91%. This study revealed a role for rare, protein-altering variants in left-handedness, providing further evidence for the involvement of microtubules and disorder-relevant genes.

Open Peer Reviews

  • Francks, C. (2020). Peer Review Report For: Heritability of language laterality assessed by functional transcranial Doppler ultrasound: a twin study [version 2; peer review: 1 approved, 2 approved with reservations] Wellcome Open Research 2020, 4:161. doi:10.21956/wellcomeopenres.17276.r38148.
  • Francks, C. (2019). Peer Review Report For: Negligible heritability of language laterality assessed by functional transcranial Doppler ultrasound: a twin study [version 1; peer review: 1 approved with reservations]. Wellcome Open Research 2019, 4:161. doi:10.21956/wellcomeopenres.16993.r36877.

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