The relation of hair whorls to brain development

Discussion in 'Biology & Genetics' started by maxg, Sep 15, 2007.

  1. maxg

    maxg Registered Senior Member

    My wife & I took our daughter Sarah to see a geneticist and neurologist a few months back (she has a delay in motor skills but not speech or cognitive abilities, if that's relevant) and the geneticist noticed that Sarah has a double hair whorl (i.e., her hair grows out of her head in two circular patterns as opposed to the usual one--also one pattern goes clockwise and the other counter-clockwise).

    The geneticist suggested that this was associated with higher rates of developmental delays, but from what I've read that seems to be far from accepted and in fact there are some people who suggest that this pattern is associated with gifted children.

    What does appear to be more widely accepted is that this pattern is associated with handedness and that with this particular pattern my daughter has a 50% chance of being left-handed (much higher than the general population).

    I'm curious what the reason might be for associating hair patterns with handedness or cognitive development and whether any of you who know more about genetics might have more information on the subject.
  2. Orleander

    Orleander OH JOY!!!!

    Hmm, that's very interesting. When we had to take our daughter to a pediatric neurologist, he asked if she had a birth mark. ??

    I never realized there was supposed to be a correlation between these things. Are they hair whorls or cow licks?
  3. maxg

    maxg Registered Senior Member

    Hair whorls. Most people have a single hair whorl on the back of the head. She has 2 with the hair pattern on each going in opposite directions.
  4. Huwy

    Huwy Secular Humanist

    like a "crown"?
    i think my dad has 3
  5. maxg

    maxg Registered Senior Member

    Yes--same as a crown--3 is very rare.
  6. Medicine*Woman

    Medicine*Woman Jesus: Mythstory--Not History!

    M*W: I congratulate you and your wife on your keen interest in your child's hair whorl. Most people don't know this, but a child's hair whorl tells us a lot. I've seen babies with 2 cm. hair whorls, two hair whorls, uneven hair whorls, and such. It is true that hair whorls tell us a lot about brain development. My mother had two hair whorls and so did I (if that tells you anything). When I was a small child of about four, when I entered the first grade (yes, the first grade), my mother told my teacher that I was "backward." I continued to hear that, and again, my mother told my teacher when I was in the sixth grade that I was "backward!" Than god my teacher rebutted and said that, "no I was not backward!" It was that teacher, long into my elementary education, that gave me hope that I might, just might, be normal! I know that my mother was never pleased with me, nor could I please her... but there was no way in hell that I was backward. It's so sad that parents have the power to set the stage for their children. It's no wonder that I was depressed in childhood. I had a jealous mother. She's gone now, but for whatever reasons, my mother hated me. But, life goes on, and I have always loved and accepted my own children and grandchildren who are the lights of my life.

    Back to hair whorls... sometimes they can determine mental illness. Sometimes they can identify brain damage. Sometimes they can pinpoint lesions in the brain. Most people don't understand that the hair whorl on their heads can lead to an enormous amount of diagnoses on gross examination. And, OTOH, when we see a perfectly formed hair whorl on a newborn, we know that they are probably physically and mentally okay.

    I really appreciate you bringing up this topic. It is truly timely and informative. It's those little things that we overlook for the most part that can tell us so much!

    Thank you!
  7. Medicine*Woman

    Medicine*Woman Jesus: Mythstory--Not History!

    M*W: Tell us more about your dad. I'd like to know about his life.
  8. Zephyr

    Zephyr Humans are ONE

    Now that is interesting. I always thought that handedness was genetic, but:

    So somebody can appear right handed, but if they don't have the right handed allele, they are just as likely as a left hander to have left handed children.
  9. Orleander

    Orleander OH JOY!!!!

    I just want to shave my head now and see what I have. If you have long hair, how can you tell?
  10. maxg

    maxg Registered Senior Member

    Ask your barber/hairdresser, they seem to be aware of the phenomena since it can make hair styling more difficult. Otherwise ask someone to look at your head, even with long hair it should be coming out from the head in a particular pattern--they may need to push down a little to see it.
  11. palbrown

    palbrown New Member

    Son with double hair whorl

    Maxg--We have a 20 month old son with a double hair whorl that goes in opposite directions. He has been a late walker (due to mild hypotonia) and talker (his cognitive skills seem to be as good as they could be based on his low expressive language skills). We have put this kid thru extensive genetic testing--650 band chromosome count, fragilex. etc. along with a slew of metabolic testing. Its all came back as negative for any syndromes or diagnoses. The neurologist, developmental pediatrician, and geneticist have all sort of "brushed off" my concern about the double hair whorl. I actually brought it to their attention as I started to really look at my kid with a fine tooth comb for anything "dysmorphic" about him. This was all that I or any of the experts could find that seemed dysmorphic. I have been told there might be a connection to being ambidext. Both my husband and I are right handed and have another son who is a left hander and is very bright (spoke in full clear 4 word sentences by 18 months, has a great memory for details, but is no athlete at age 3.5). My brother was a lefty too, but no double hair whorl.

    I have also been told that 6-8% of the general population has a double hair whorl. My hairdresser says that she sees a few clients each week with a double. It still bugs me though.
  12. oh goody. A sticky pseudoscience thread in a science forum.
  13. one_raven

    one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper


    If THIS isn't proof positive...
    ...then I don't know what is.
  14. my apologies. My judgment was once again too fast. I'm very happy that facts are guiding this thread.
  15. maxg

    maxg Registered Senior Member

    While it hasn't been studied much, I'm not sure what's pseudoscientific about the question? It does appear that hair whorls are related to handedness and there is a genetic predisposition for handedness. So while it may be speculative to consider other associations it doesn't seem like we're talking about phrenology here.

    If the other links weren't convincing here's some abstracts from the medical literature:
  16. Regarding the articles you cited, phrenology woud then be just as relevant.
  17. iceaura

    iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Not just pseudoscience, for better or worse - example:

    But if you read the thing, which I don't really recommend, somwhere in there is an interesting little one sentence observation about the meta analysis; that most of the correlations - between features like hair whorls and such things as schizophrenia - disappear when the person cataloguing the features is ignorant of the diagnosis of the disorder.
  18. maxg

    maxg Registered Senior Member

    Care to explain further?
  19. No, other than to mention the words 'cause and effect' and 'shared developmental pathways' and 'combinatorial control'

    and maybe

  20. whitewolf

    whitewolf asleep under the juniper bush

    I was waiting for this for so long. I shivered and bit my nails, stuttering, "No, it CAN'T be, it MUSTN'T be...." And finally, I saw it:


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