Professor Petitto and the entire Brain and Language Laboratory for Neuroimaging (BL2) team are thrilled to announce the upcoming purchase of a new brain imaging system: a new near infrared spectroscopy neuroimaging system, or “fNIRS,” which will replace an aging system. With generous gifts from an unanimous donor and from Gallaudet University, BL2’s new fNIRS brain imaging system has been purchased from NIRx Medical Technologies, LLC, Berlin, Germany. We are especially grateful to Dr. Richard Barbour (Chief Scientist), and Thomas Johannsen (Technical Sales Manager, Hardware Support Consultant) for their wonderful assistance.

The fNIRS neuroimaging system is among the world’s most advanced brain imaging system and has several significant advances over other contemporary neuroimaging systems. The state-of-the-art fNIRS system permits an important window into the human brain, especially regarding the neural tissue and systems that make possible human higher cognitive functions and how they develop and change over time (e.g., from birth through old age). The fNIRS brain imaging system will permit Professor Petitto and her BL2 team to advance their foundational studies of young deaf and hearing children’s acquisition of signed and spoken languages, the bilingual brain (e.g., Bilingual ASL and English acquisition from early life), and the bilingual reading brain. The new fNIRS system will also permit the Petitto team to advance earlier pioneering foundational research on how two people engage in social conversation with one another (See full Dual-NIRS poster here), and especially how deaf adults using ASL build social conversations with one another, work that was forced to a halt due to limited access to new technology. Neuroimaging tools provide important new knowledge that we could not have known simply from the study of behavior alone. For example, we can now answer questions in human development about the optimal age when young children need exposure to a natural and accessible language; what happens when these “sensitive periods” in human development are missed; and, how best to design targeted language and reading remediation in young children who have missed exposure to a natural language during key sensitive periods. fNIRS has also shed new light on the optimal ages for bilingual language exposure, and how and when best to learn to read in two languages, that is, the optimal ways for learning to read in the young bilingual child. See Petitto publications.

We are particularly thrilled that the Petitto BL2 will be the home of this new brain imaging system because BL2’s fNIRS neuroimaging training opens up enormous career opportunities for Gallaudet students at large (undergraduates and graduates) who are interested in advanced training in today’s STEM disciplines, especially cognitive, language, and the brain sciences. Petitto’s BL2 is also one of the key training sites for all PhD in Educational Neuroscience (PEN) Program’s graduate students. BL2 is the home site of several grants for basic science research, including a National Science Foundation INSPIRE grant, Petitto, PI, and a Keck Foundation grant, Petitto, PI. Petitto’s BL2 is also a community resource, offering tours to the public in which new science discoveries about young deaf and hearing children’s language learning, reading, and bilingualism are shared. Professor Petitto is also particularly committed to advancing careers of learning and discovery in science in all young scholars, and, especially, to aid young women to enter and to enjoy a thrilling life in science!