Edited by Gary Morgan
[Trends in Language Acquisition Research 25] 2020
► pp. 159–181
Chapter 9. Neurobiological insights from the study of deafness and sign language
The study of deafness and sign language has provided a means of dissociating modality specificity from higher level abstract processes in the brain. Differentiating these is fundamental for establishing the relationship between sensorimotor representations and functional specialisation in the brain. Early deafness in humans provides a unique insight into this problem, because the reorganisation observed in the adult deaf brain is not only due to neural development in the absence of auditory inputs, but also due to the acquisition of visual communication strategies such as sign language and speechreading. Here we report research by scholars who have collaborated with Bencie Woll in understanding the neural reorganisation that occurs as a consequence of early deafness, and its relation to the use of different visual strategies for language. We concentrate on three main topics: functional specialisation of sensory cortices, language and working memory.