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Phonological processing in deaf signers and the impact of age of first language acquisition

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      Abstract

      Just as words can rhyme, the signs of a signed language can share structural properties, such as location. Linguistic description at this level is termed phonology. We report that a left-lateralised fronto-parietal network is engaged during phonological similarity judgements made in both English (rhyme) and British Sign Language (BSL; location). Since these languages operate in different modalities, these data suggest that the neural network supporting phonological processing is, to some extent, supramodal. Activation within this network was however modulated by language (BSL/English), hearing status (deaf/hearing), and age of BSL acquisition (native/non-native). The influence of language and hearing status suggests an important role for the posterior portion of the left inferior frontal gyrus in speech-based phonological processing in deaf people. This, we suggest, is due to increased reliance on the articulatory component of speech when the auditory component is absent. With regard to age of first language acquisition, non-native signers activated the left inferior frontal gyrus more than native signers during the BSL task, and also during the task performed in English, which both groups acquired late. This is the first neuroimaging demonstration that age of first language acquisition has implications not only for the neural systems supporting the first language, but also for networks supporting languages learned subsequently.

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      The MRC psycholinguistic database

       Max Coltheart (2007)
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        Functional MRI of language: new approaches to understanding the cortical organization of semantic processing.

        Until recently, our understanding of how language is organized in the brain depended on analysis of behavioral deficits in patients with fortuitously placed lesions. The availability of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) for in vivo analysis of the normal brain has revolutionized the study of language. This review discusses three lines of fMRI research into how the semantic system is organized in the adult brain. These are (a) the role of the left inferior frontal lobe in semantic processing and dissociations from other frontal lobe language functions, (b) the organization of categories of objects and concepts in the temporal lobe, and (c) the role of the right hemisphere in comprehending contextual and figurative meaning. Together, these lines of research broaden our understanding of how the brain stores, retrieves, and makes sense of semantic information, and they challenge some commonly held notions of functional modularity in the language system.
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          Functional specialization for semantic and phonological processing in the left inferior prefrontal cortex.

          Neuroimaging and neuropsychological studies have implicated left inferior prefrontal cortex (LIPC) in both semantic and phonological processing. In this study, functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to examine whether separate LIPC regions participate in each of these types of processing. Performance of a semantic decision task resulted in extensive LIPC activation compared to a perceptual control task. Phonological processing of words and pseudowords in a syllable-counting task resulted in activation of the dorsal aspect of the left inferior frontal gyrus near the inferior frontal sulcus (BA 44/45) compared to a perceptual control task, with greater activation for nonwords compared to words. In a direct comparison of semantic and phonological tasks, semantic processing preferentially activated the ventral aspect of the left inferior frontal gyrus (BA 47/45). A review of the literature demonstrated a similar distinction between left prefrontal regions involved in semantic processing and phonological/lexical processing. The results suggest that a distinct region in the left inferior frontal cortex is involved in semantic processing, whereas other regions may subserve phonological processes engaged during both semantic and phonological tasks. Copyright 1999 Academic Press.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [a ]Behavioural and Brain Sciences Unit, UCL Institute of Child Health, 30 Guilford Street, London WC1N 1EH, UK
            [b ]Deafness, Cognition and Language Research Centre, Department of Human Communication Science, University College London, London WC1H 0PD, UK
            [c ]Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF, UK
            [d ]Centre for Neuroscience and Education, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, 184 Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 2PQ, UK
            Author notes
            [* ]Corresponding author. Behavioural and Brain Sciences Unit, UCL Institute of Child Health, 30 Guilford Street, London WC1N 1EH, UK. Fax: +44 207 831 7050. m.macsweeney@ 123456ich.ucl.ac.uk
            Contributors
            Journal
            Neuroimage
            Neuroimage
            Academic Press
            1053-8119
            1095-9572
            15 April 2008
            15 April 2008
            : 40
            : 3
            : 1369-1379
            2278232
            18282770
            YNIMG5156
            10.1016/j.neuroimage.2007.12.047
            © 2008 Elsevier Inc.

            This document may be redistributed and reused, subject to certain conditions.

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