BACKGROUND: Mental planning and carrying out a plan provoke specific cerebral hemodynamic responses. Gender aspects of hemispheric laterality using rapid cerebral hemodynamics have not been reported.
METHOD: Here, we applied functional transcranial Doppler sonography to examine lateralization of cerebral hemodynamics of the middle cerebral arteries of 28 subjects (14 women and 14 men) performing a standard planning task. There were easy and difficult problems, and mental planning without motor activity was separated from movement execution.
RESULTS: Difficult mental planning elicited lateralization to the right hemisphere after 2 or more seconds, a feature that was not observed during movement execution. In females, there was a dominance to the left hemisphere during movement execution. Optimized problem solving yielded an increased laterality change to the right during mental planning.
CONCLUSIONS: Gender-related hemispheric dominance appears to be condition-dependent, and change of laterality to the right may play a role in optimized performance. Results are of relevance when considering laterality from a perspective of performance enhancement of higher cognitive functions, and also of psychiatric disorders with cognitive dysfunctions and abnormal lateralization patterns such as schizophrenia.