Our Studies

Neuroplasticity of Spatial Working Memory in Signed Language Processing

Question: Will the timing of signed language acquisition yield change in the neural resources facilitating spatial working memory?

Goal: By studying a spatial syntax based language like ASL, a unique window, that would not be possible with spoken language, is gained into the structural and functional plasticity of the human brain. Findings will provide advancement to scientific debate about the nature of brain plasticity and reversibility of the critical period for language acquisition in adult learners.

Infant Sensitivity To Natural Language Rhythms in Fingerspelling

Question: How can we understand the nature of visual-manual rhythmic-temporal patterns which are central to visual sign phonology, and how infants’ visual language experience changes their sensitivity to these patterns?

Goal: Fingerspelling, a manual representation of English orthography, contains such patterns and has been hypothesized to play a crucial role in later language and literacy acquisition. Findings will permit us to better identify components of the language signal to which infants are most sensitive, and the contribution of visual sign phonology to language and literacy acquisition.

Temporal Dynamics of Bilateral Neural Activation in the Bilingual Brain

Questions: What are the neural origins of human brain lateralization for language? What early-life experiences drive lateralization?

Goals: Uncover why the degree of language lateralization varies as a function of language experience, with bilinguals showing more right hemisphere activation as compared with monolinguals. Investigate whether early-life bilingual language experience may support more equal and efficient hemispheric involvement, and yield linguistic and cognitive advantages in young bilinguals.

The Phonological Representation of Signing Creatures: Perceptual Requirements of Signing Avatars

Question: What bodily features and grammatical features are essential for comprehension of an “signing creature” avatar?

Goals: Determine the degree of anthropomorphization, based on the phonological requirements of American Sign Language, to capture and sustain young children’s attention and learning in the new wave of storybook apps that VL2 has ushered forth.

The Biological Basis for Language and Cognition in Infants, Children, and Adults With Cochlear Implants

Question: Does early exposure to a visual signed language impact classic spoken language tissue development, including left Inferior Frontal Gyrus (LIFG) and Superior Temporal Gyrus (STG) in deaf individuals with cochlear implants?  We further investigate how language processing in the deaf CI individual is impacted by variation in early-life language experience?

Goal: Provide new insights on how early life language exposure can facilitate language processing in individuals with cochlear implants.

The Biological Basis for Language and Reading in Monolingual and Bilingual Infants, Children and Adults

Questions: How does the brain processes two languages? What impact does the age of first bilingual exposure have on the bilingual’s capacity to process and read in two languages?

Goals: Uncover the biological foundations and environmental influences underlying linguistic and cognitive processing in monolingual and bilingual infants, children, and adults. Understand how the bilingual child learns to read and at what age bilingual exposure is most beneficial to a young reader.

The Linguistic Structure and Neural Representation of Classifier Constructions: Through the Lens of fNIRS Neuroimaging of Adults

Question: Do the visual resources in signed languages result in American Sign Language classifier constructions engaging additional neural systems for non-morphemic processing? In other words, are classifier constructions only processed as morphemic?

Goals: Understand the extent to which biological variation signed and spoken language modalities influences language structure. Lay the groundwork for future studies on how children process iconicity in signed languages.

The Impact of Early Visual Language Experience on Visual Attention and Visual Sign Phonology Processing in Young Deaf Emergent Readers Using Early-Reading Apps

Question: Do differences in early life visual language experience impact visual attention and allocation in the young emergent deaf reader?

Goal: Provide insight into when (at what age) young deaf children are best exposed to signed languages so as to promote dual language mastery, and, especially, enhancements to English reading acquisition. All findings will provide new research-based knowledge for the optimal design of e-literacy and avatar translational learning and reading tools.