Spoken Speech and ASL Appear to Engage Same Neural Circuits Whether people use spoken language or American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate, they use the same parts of the brain, indicates research in Scientific Reports. Investigators from New York University designed a study to observe the neural timing and localization of the planning of phrases in English speakers and ASL ... Research in Brief
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Research in Brief  |   June 01, 2018
Spoken Speech and ASL Appear to Engage Same Neural Circuits
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Audiologic / Aural Rehabilitation / Augmentative & Alternative Communication / Research in Brief
Research in Brief   |   June 01, 2018
Spoken Speech and ASL Appear to Engage Same Neural Circuits
The ASHA Leader, June 2018, Vol. 23, 18. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB3.23062018.18
The ASHA Leader, June 2018, Vol. 23, 18. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB3.23062018.18
Whether people use spoken language or American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate, they use the same parts of the brain, indicates research in Scientific Reports. Investigators from New York University designed a study to observe the neural timing and localization of the planning of phrases in English speakers and ASL signers.
The small study included 11 English speakers (average age 26) and 11 ASL signers (average age 37). Participants viewed a color picture with a color background (for example, a red plane on a green background) and were instructed to name or sign the picture by giving the color and shape. The researchers measured the participants’ neurological activity during the experiment using magnetoencephalography, a technique that maps neural activity by recording magnetic fields generated by the electrical currents produced by the brain.

“Evidence of overlapping computations at this level of detail is still a striking demonstration of the fundamental core of human language.”

Researchers observed that during phrase-building, signers and speakers used the same parts of the brain at the same time (the left anterior temporal and ventromedial cortices), even though one group relies on voice and the other relies on hands to communicate.
“Although there are many reasons to believe that signed and spoken languages should be neurobiologically quite similar, evidence of overlapping computations at this level of detail is still a striking demonstration of the fundamental core of human language,” says senior author Liina Pylkkanen, a professor of linguistics and psychology at New York University.
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June 2018
Volume 23, Issue 6