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The Sinister Side of Dementia

Does "handedness" have any bearing on dementia?

I am sinister...

Chances are, you're not. Only around 10% of the world's population is sinister, and the rest are dexters. Yes. I am left-handed. A "southpaw" and the meaning of the word "sinister" is "of the left side", whereas "Dexter" means "of the right side". So most of you are DEXTROUS, while I must be content to be labelled with the more creepy and ominous word SINISTER. Now that probably doesn't mean much to 90% of you. But it SHOULD.

It's a right-handed world. And left-handed people have to learn to cope with it.

We have to learn to develop coping strategies from infancy. But, unfortunately, our needs are seldom catered explicitly for, so we make do by using stuff built for right-handers in our own awkward and sometimes more hazardous ways.

What causes left-handedness?

Scientists aren't sure, but research points to a complex link between genes and the environment. For example, although no exact set of "left-handed genes" has been discovered, people who dominantly use their left hands have more left-handed family members. And researchers have found different brain wirings in right vs left-handed people.

Here are just a few obstacles we must overcome on our journey through life. Writing:

Writing is HARD for us lefties. The standard western script is written from left to right, so if you're right-handed, you're simply pulling the pen effortlessly along as you write. Like a softly flowing stream, right? Not so for us lefties. Left-handed writing is hard.

Lefties must push the pen away from their hand while simultaneously creating legible loops and slants, crossing 't's and dotting 'i's. Pushing means it's more likely that the pen tip skips and the line gets broken.

Not only that, we get ink all over the edge of our hands where we rub them over the words we've just written. I was constantly in trouble at school for my messy handwriting and smudged work.

Using common household implements and everyday items:

Here's a short list of some of the ordinary household implements that are made for right-handers:

  • Can openers

  • Scissors

  • Expanding rulers (markings upside down)

  • Zippers on trousers

  • Graduated measuring jugs

  • Spiralised notebooks and ring binders (torture..)

  • Credit card "swipe" machines

  • the pen on a chain in banks

  • Those chairs with the little "desk" tray on the right arm (more torture!)

  • Electric guitars

  • Vegetable peelers that only have one sharp side.

  • Cameras

  • Most doors


The list above is just a few things that sprung into my mind in a few minutes.

How might this impact on dementia?

Well. I've been pondering on the possible impact of my left-handedness on my dementia and whether the differences in my brain wiring and my lifetime of finding coping strategies might affect the likelihood of my contracting dementia and my ability to cope with its effects.

I've participated in many studies and clinical trials, but NONE have ever asked me whether I am left or right-handed. Now I'm no academic, But SURELY this easily gathered information would be helpful to capture? I can find no large-scale investigation that has been undertaken to determine if there is a statistical difference between the percentage of left-handers in the general population and the community of people diagnosed with dementia or if our rate of decline, life expectancy or symptoms differ.

The Challenge

So here's the challenge.

Will any of you eggheads out there expanding our knowledge of dementia take on the challenge of exploring any potential links between "handedness" and our condition? Will you at least start gathering this data when interacting with people living with a diagnosis?

Please at least consider what I have said and ponder on it. Surely it's not outrageous to suggest that there might be links and that it might be a fruitful area of research?

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