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Brain Lang. 2010 Feb;112(2):129-34. doi: 10.1016/j.bandl.2009.10.004. Epub 2009 Dec 29.

Superior temporal activation as a function of linguistic knowledge: insights from deaf native signers who speechread.

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School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK.


Studies of spoken and signed language processing reliably show involvement of the posterior superior temporal cortex. This region is also reliably activated by observation of meaningless oral and manual actions. In this study we directly compared the extent to which activation in posterior superior temporal cortex is modulated by linguistic knowledge irrespective of differences in language form. We used a novel cross-linguistic approach in two groups of volunteers who differed in their language experience. Using fMRI, we compared deaf native signers of British Sign Language (BSL), who were also proficient speechreaders of English (i.e., two languages) with hearing people who could speechread English, but knew no BSL (i.e., one language). Both groups were presented with BSL signs and silently spoken English words, and were required to respond to a signed or spoken target. The interaction of group and condition revealed activation in the superior temporal cortex, bilaterally, focused in the posterior superior temporal gyri (pSTG, BA 42/22). In hearing people, these regions were activated more by speech than by sign, but in deaf respondents they showed similar levels of activation for both language forms - suggesting that posterior superior temporal regions are highly sensitive to language knowledge irrespective of the mode of delivery of the stimulus material.

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