Sign Language Neurology in Comparison to a Hearing Perspective

Signing is also a proper ‘language’ in terms of the neural networks at work. Brains of signers interpret their languages in much the same way as the brain of a ‘speaker’ does. Nevertheless, there are several major distinct aspects separating the two mediums of communication.

Advanced brain scans by functional MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) reveal increased sight processing skills in the brains of signers. Besides this sensory difference, another critical aspect involves an increased involvement of the parietal lobe in sign processing.

Like the processing of spoken vernaculars, the left hemisphere holds the responsibilities of language interpretation in signing as well. Different areas of the brain, such as the Broca’s Area and the Wernicke’s area, hold key roles in both formats of communications.

The need for early learning

Studies reveal the activation of different regions in both the left and right hemispheres of the brain in using American Sign Language or the ASL. However, one study points to a certain ‘critical window’ of optimum brain development. Essentially, it is similar to spoken language protocols. People who learned signing at childhood are often more active in brain development compared to those who learn the language after puberty.

The study shows an increased activation of the ‘right angular gyrus’ in ASL learners from childhood. The emergency of the ‘critical period’ implies that certain areas of the brain fail to activate readily when the language skill feedbacks come in at an advanced stage of life.

Hearing parents need to realize

Keeping this in purview, it is important for parents of deaf children to realize the necessity of early education in signing. It should not turn out to be a conflict of the spoken world and the signing world. Parents who can hear need to focus more on developing thei child’s signing skills instead of trying to force a spoken vernacular. This develops a sense of isolation early on, and shows up afterwards as major rifts between the two worlds.

Deafness is a special form of impairment, and it is not a disability per se. The deaf culture is rich in its unique heritage and active itineraries. The United Nations and almost all major world governments recognize signing as a special form of communication.

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