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Brain Cogn. 2002 Jun;49(1):170-81.

Visual field asymmetries for motion processing in deaf and hearing signers.

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  • 1University of California, San Diego, La Jolla 92093, USA.

Abstract

Recently, we reported a strong right visual field/left hemisphere advantage for motion processing in deaf signers and a slight reverse asymmetry in hearing nonsigners (Bosworth & Dobkins, 1999). This visual field asymmetry in deaf signers may be due to auditory deprivation or to experience with a visual-manual language, American Sign Language (ASL). In order to separate these two possible sources, in this study we added a third group, hearing native signers, who have normal hearing and have learned ASL from their deaf parents. As in our previous study, subjects performed a direction-of-motion discrimination task at different locations across the visual field. In addition to investigating differences in left vs right visual field asymmetries across subject groups, we also asked whether performance differences exist for superior vs inferior visual fields and peripheral vs central visual fields. Replicating our previous study, a robust right visual field advantage was observed in deaf signers, but not in hearing nonsigners. Like deaf signers, hearing signers also exhibited a strong right visual field advantage, suggesting that this effect is related to experience with sign language. These results suggest that perceptual processes required for the acquisition and comprehension of language (motion processing in the case of ASL) are recruited by the left, language-dominant, hemisphere. Deaf subjects also exhibited an inferior visual field advantage that was significantly larger than that observed in either hearing group. In addition, there was a trend for deaf subjects to perform relatively better on peripheral than on central stimuli, while both hearing groups showed the reverse pattern. Because deaf signers differed from hearing signers and nonsigners along these domains, the inferior and peripheral visual field advantages observed in deaf subjects is presumably related to auditory deprivation. Finally, these visual field asymmetries were not modulated by attention for any subject group, suggesting they are a result of sensory, and not attentional, factors.

PMID:
12027401
DOI:
10.1006/brcg.2001.1498
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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