Neural networks mediating sentence reading in the deaf.
ABSTRACT: The present work addresses the neural bases of sentence reading in deaf populations. To better understand the relative role of deafness and spoken language knowledge in shaping the neural networks that mediate sentence reading, three populations with different degrees of English knowledge and depth of hearing loss were included-deaf signers, oral deaf and hearing individuals. The three groups were matched for reading comprehension and scanned while reading sentences. A similar neural network of left perisylvian areas was observed, supporting the view of a shared network of areas for reading despite differences in hearing and English knowledge. However, differences were observed, in particular in the auditory cortex, with deaf signers and oral deaf showing greatest bilateral superior temporal gyrus (STG) recruitment as compared to hearing individuals. Importantly, within deaf individuals, the same STG area in the left hemisphere showed greater recruitment as hearing loss increased. To further understand the functional role of such auditory cortex re-organization after deafness, connectivity analyses were performed from the STG regions identified above. Connectivity from the left STG toward areas typically associated with semantic processing (BA45 and thalami) was greater in deaf signers and in oral deaf as compared to hearing. In contrast, connectivity from left STG toward areas identified with speech-based processing was greater in hearing and in oral deaf as compared to deaf signers. These results support the growing literature indicating recruitment of auditory areas after congenital deafness for visually-mediated language functions, and establish that both auditory deprivation and language experience shape its functional reorganization. Implications for differential reliance on semantic vs. phonological pathways during reading in the three groups is discussed.
Project description:To identify neural regions that automatically respond to linguistically structured, but meaningless manual gestures, 14 deaf native users of American Sign Language (ASL) and 14 hearing non-signers passively viewed pseudosigns (possible but non-existent ASL signs) and non-iconic ASL signs, in addition to a fixation baseline. For the contrast between pseudosigns and baseline, greater activation was observed in left posterior superior temporal sulcus (STS), but not in left inferior frontal gyrus (BA 44/45), for deaf signers compared to hearing non-signers, based on VOI analyses. We hypothesize that left STS is more engaged for signers because this region becomes tuned to human body movements that conform the phonological constraints of sign language. For deaf signers, the contrast between pseudosigns and known ASL signs revealed increased activation for pseudosigns in left posterior superior temporal gyrus (STG) and in left inferior frontal cortex, but no regions were found to be more engaged for known signs than for pseudosigns. This contrast revealed no significant differences in activation for hearing non-signers. We hypothesize that left STG is involved in recognizing linguistic phonetic units within a dynamic visual or auditory signal, such that less familiar structural combinations produce increased neural activation in this region for both pseudosigns and pseudowords.
Project description:UNLABELLED:While reading is challenging for many deaf individuals, some become proficient readers. Little is known about the component processes that support reading comprehension in these individuals. Speech-based phonological knowledge is one of the strongest predictors of reading comprehension in hearing individuals, yet its role in deaf readers is controversial. This could reflect the highly varied language backgrounds among deaf readers as well as the difficulty of disentangling the relative contribution of phonological versus orthographic knowledge of spoken language, in our case 'English,' in this population. Here we assessed the impact of language experience on reading comprehension in deaf readers by recruiting oral deaf individuals, who use spoken English as their primary mode of communication, and deaf native signers of American Sign Language. First, to address the contribution of spoken English phonological knowledge in deaf readers, we present novel tasks that evaluate phonological versus orthographic knowledge. Second, the impact of this knowledge, as well as memory measures that rely differentially on phonological (serial recall) and semantic (free recall) processing, on reading comprehension was evaluated. The best predictor of reading comprehension differed as a function of language experience, with free recall being a better predictor in deaf native signers than in oral deaf. In contrast, the measures of English phonological knowledge, independent of orthographic knowledge, best predicted reading comprehension in oral deaf individuals. These results suggest successful reading strategies differ across deaf readers as a function of their language experience, and highlight a possible alternative route to literacy in deaf native signers. HIGHLIGHTS:1. Deaf individuals vary in their orthographic and phonological knowledge of English as a function of their language experience. 2. Reading comprehension was best predicted by different factors in oral deaf and deaf native signers. 3. Free recall memory (primacy effect) better predicted reading comprehension in deaf native signers as compared to oral deaf or hearing individuals. 4. Language experience should be taken into account when considering cognitive processes that mediate reading in deaf individuals.
Project description:Evidence indicates that adequate phonological abilities are necessary to develop proficient reading skills and that later in life phonology also has a role in the covert visual word recognition of expert readers. Impairments of acoustic perception, such as deafness, can lead to atypical phonological representations of written words and letters, which in turn can affect reading proficiency. Here, we report an experiment in which young adults with different levels of acoustic perception (i.e., hearing and deaf individuals) and different modes of communication (i.e., hearing individuals using spoken language, deaf individuals with a preference for sign language, and deaf individuals using the oral modality with less or no competence in sign language) performed a visual lexical decision task, which consisted of categorizing real words and consonant strings. The lexicality effect was restricted to deaf signers who responded faster to real words than consonant strings, showing over-reliance on whole word lexical processing of stimuli. No effect of stimulus type was found in deaf individuals using the oral modality or in hearing individuals. Thus, mode of communication modulates the lexicality effect. This suggests that learning a sign language during development shapes visuo-motor representations of words, which are tuned to the actions used to express them (phono-articulatory movements vs. hand movements) and to associated perceptions. As these visuo-motor representations are elicited during on-line linguistic processing and can overlap with the perceptual-motor processes required to execute the task, they can potentially produce interference or facilitation effects.
Project description:An eye tracking experiment explored the gaze behavior of deaf individuals when perceiving language in spoken and sign language only, and in sign-supported speech (SSS). Participants were deaf (n = 25) and hearing (n = 25) Spanish adolescents. Deaf students were prelingually profoundly deaf individuals with cochlear implants (CIs) used by age 5 or earlier, or prelingually profoundly deaf native signers with deaf parents. The effectiveness of SSS has rarely been tested within the same group of children for discourse-level comprehension. Here, video-recorded texts, including spatial descriptions, were alternately transmitted in spoken language, sign language and SSS. The capacity of these communicative systems to equalize comprehension in deaf participants with that of spoken language in hearing participants was tested. Within-group analyses of deaf participants tested if the bimodal linguistic input of SSS favored discourse comprehension compared to unimodal languages. Deaf participants with CIs achieved equal comprehension to hearing controls in all communicative systems while deaf native signers with no CIs achieved equal comprehension to hearing participants if tested in their native sign language. Comprehension of SSS was not increased compared to spoken language, even when spatial information was communicated. Eye movements of deaf and hearing participants were tracked and data of dwell times spent looking at the face or body area of the sign model were analyzed. Within-group analyses focused on differences between native and non-native signers. Dwell times of hearing participants were equally distributed across upper and lower areas of the face while deaf participants mainly looked at the mouth area; this could enable information to be obtained from mouthings in sign language and from lip-reading in SSS and spoken language. Few fixations were directed toward the signs, although these were more frequent when spatial language was transmitted. Both native and non-native signers looked mainly at the face when perceiving sign language, although non-native signers looked significantly more at the body than native signers. This distribution of gaze fixations suggested that deaf individuals - particularly native signers - mainly perceived signs through peripheral vision.
Project description:Early auditory deprivation may drive the auditory cortex into cross-modal processing of non-auditory sensory information. In a recent study, we had shown that early deaf subjects exhibited increased activation in the superior temporal gyrus (STG) bilaterally during visual spatial working memory; however, the changes in the organization of the STG related spontaneous functional network, and their cognitive relevance are still unknown. To clarify this issue, we applied resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging on 42 early deafness (ED) and 40 hearing controls (HC). We also acquired the visual spatial and numerical n-back working memory (WM) information in these subjects. Compared with hearing subjects, the ED exhibited faster reaction time of visual WM tasks in both spatial and numerical domains. Furthermore, ED subjects exhibited significantly increased functional connectivity between the STG (especially of the right hemisphere) and bilateral anterior insula and dorsal anterior cingulated cortex. Finally, the functional connectivity of STG could predict visual spatial WM performance, even after controlling for numerical WM performance. Our findings suggest that early auditory deprivation can strengthen the spontaneous functional connectivity of STG, which may contribute to the cross-modal involvement of this region in visual working memory.
Project description:Previous research indicates that motion-sensitive brain regions are engaged when comprehending motion semantics expressed by words or sentences. Using fMRI, we investigated whether such neural modulation can occur when the linguistic signal itself is visually dynamic and motion semantics is expressed by movements of the hands. Deaf and hearing users of American Sign Language (ASL) were presented with signed sentences that conveyed motion semantics ("The deer walked along the hillside.") or were static, conveying little or no motion ("The deer slept along the hillside."); sentences were matched for the amount of visual motion. Motion-sensitive visual areas (MT+) were localized individually in each participant. As a control, the Fusiform Face Area (FFA) was also localized for the deaf participants. The whole-brain analysis revealed static (locative) sentences engaged regions in left parietal cortex more than motion sentences, replicating previous results implicating these regions in comprehending spatial language for sign languages. Greater activation was observed in the functionally defined MT+ ROI for motion than static sentences for both deaf and hearing signers. No modulation of neural activity by sentence type was observed in the FFA. Deafness did not affect modulation of MT+ by motion semantics, but hearing signers exhibited stronger neural activity in MT+ for both sentence types, perhaps due to differences in exposure and/or use of ASL. We conclude that top down modulation of motion-sensitive cortex by linguistic semantics is not disrupted by the visual motion that is present in sign language sentences.
Project description:The observation of other people's actions recruits a network of areas including the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), the inferior parietal lobule (IPL), and posterior middle temporal gyrus (pMTG). These regions have been shown to be activated through both visual and auditory inputs. Intriguingly, previous studies found no engagement of IFG and IPL for deaf participants during non-linguistic action observation, leading to the proposal that auditory experience or sign language usage might shape the functionality of these areas. To understand which variables induce plastic changes in areas recruited during the processing of other people's actions, we examined the effects of tasks (action understanding and passive viewing) and effectors (arm actions vs. leg actions), as well as sign language experience in a group of 12 congenitally deaf signers and 13 hearing participants. In Experiment 1, we found a stronger activation during an action recognition task in comparison to a low-level visual control task in IFG, IPL and pMTG in both deaf signers and hearing individuals, but no effect of auditory or sign language experience. In Experiment 2, we replicated the results of the first experiment using a passive viewing task. Together, our results provide robust evidence demonstrating that the response obtained in IFG, IPL, and pMTG during action recognition and passive viewing is not affected by auditory or sign language experience, adding further support for the supra-modal nature of these regions.
Project description:Congenital deafness causes large changes in the auditory cortex structure and function, such that without early childhood cochlear-implant, profoundly deaf children do not develop intact, high-level, auditory functions. But how is auditory cortex organization affected by congenital, prelingual, and long standing deafness? Does the large-scale topographical organization of the auditory cortex develop in people deaf from birth? And is it retained despite cross-modal plasticity? We identified, using fMRI, topographic tonotopy-based functional connectivity (FC) structure in humans in the core auditory cortex, its extending tonotopic gradients in the belt and even beyond that. These regions show similar FC structure in the congenitally deaf throughout the auditory cortex, including in the language areas. The topographic FC pattern can be identified reliably in the vast majority of the deaf, at the single subject level, despite the absence of hearing-aid use and poor oral language skills. These findings suggest that large-scale tonotopic-based FC does not require sensory experience to develop, and is retained despite life-long auditory deprivation and cross-modal plasticity. Furthermore, as the topographic FC is retained to varying degrees among the deaf subjects, it may serve to predict the potential for auditory rehabilitation using cochlear implants in individual subjects.
Project description:Short-term memory (STM), or the ability to hold verbal information in mind for a few seconds, is known to rely on the integrity of a frontoparietal network of areas. Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to ask whether a similar network is engaged when verbal information is conveyed through a visuospatial language, American Sign Language, rather than speech. Deaf native signers and hearing native English speakers performed a verbal recall task, where they had to first encode a list of letters in memory, maintain it for a few seconds, and finally recall it in the order presented. The frontoparietal network described to mediate STM in speakers was also observed in signers, with its recruitment appearing independent of the modality of the language. This finding supports the view that signed and spoken STM rely on similar mechanisms. However, deaf signers and hearing speakers differentially engaged key structures of the frontoparietal network as the stages of STM unfold. In particular, deaf signers relied to a greater extent than hearing speakers on passive memory storage areas during encoding and maintenance, but on executive process areas during recall. This work opens new avenues for understanding similarities and differences in STM performance in signers and speakers.
Project description:The neurodevelopmental consequences of deafness on the functional neuroarchitecture of the conceptual system have not been intensively investigated so far. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we therefore identified brain areas involved in conceptual processing in deaf and hearing participants. Conceptual processing was probed by a pictorial animacy decision task. Furthermore, brain areas sensitive to observing verbal signs and to observing non-verbal visual hand actions were identified in deaf participants. In hearing participants, brain areas responsive to environmental sounds and the observation of visual hand actions were determined. We found a stronger recruitment of superior and middle temporal cortex in deaf compared to hearing participants during animacy decisions. This region, which forms auditory cortex in hearing people according to the sound listening task, was also activated in deaf participants, when they observed sign language, but not when they observed non-verbal hand actions. These results indicate that conceptual processing in deaf people more strongly depends on language representations compared to hearing people. Furthermore, additionally enhanced activation in visual and motor areas of deaf versus hearing participants during animacy decisions and a more frequent report of visual and motor features in the property listing task suggest that the loss of the auditory channel is partially compensated by an increased importance of visual and motor information for constituting object knowledge. Hence, our results indicate that conceptual processing in deaf compared to hearing people is more strongly based on the language system, complemented by an enhanced contribution of the visuo-motor system.