Early sign language experience shapes visual regions

Sign language is a visuospatial language that requires motion processing, and often involves more peripheral visual processing for proficient signers. Previous studies find that deaf people with early sign language often show better peripheral vision, and also show more activation of the left middle temporal and medial superior temporal (MT/MST) regions when processing motion. It is unclear whether these enhancements come from compensatory plasticity for auditory deprivation, or from extensive early sign language use. Early sensory and language deprivation during a critical period often have a significant impact on brain development. By investigating the brain structures of deaf individuals with various ages of sign language onset, the present study explicitly examines the effects of age of sign language acquisition (AoA) on brain plasticity in visual regions.

Cheng, Q., Klein, E., Chen, J.K., Halgren, E., & Mayberry, R. (2018, Nov). Effects of early sign language use on anatomical structures of visual regions: Surface-based and DTI analyses. Poster presentation at the 48th Annual Meeting of Society for Neuroscience, San Diego, CA. [poster]