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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Role of Sensory Experience and Communication Modality in the Neural Mechanisms Supporting Social Communicative Processes: A fNIRS Hyperscanning Study
by Berger, Lauren, Ph.D., Gallaudet University, 2021, 79; 28264482
Abstract (Summary)

Recent work has identified that there is a specialized neural mechanism functionally linked to processing salient social cues in the form of dialogue and eye-to-eye contact. Social communicative processes in the brain are tightly related to language processing because they play a functional role in the development of language skills as well as preparing the individual to interactive communication. Indeed, the neural sites recruited to process social cues overlap with the canonical language areas. We argue that social communicative mechanisms related to language processes in the human brain might be modality-independent. We use a fNIRS hyperscanning paradigm exploring the neural activations in response to two types of social communicative processes: mutual engagement and interactive communication, in a group of DeafBlind participants using Pro-Tactile American Sign Language (PTASL). As a control group, we also test the same task in a group of Deaf sighted ASL native signers. We found evidence that producing language in the interactive communication task, recruited the canonical language production areas regardless of whether participants were using PTASL or ASL. Furthermore, we found evidence of embodied cognition processes when both groups, DeafBlind and Deaf sighted participants, were perceiving language in the interactive communication task. Together, these findings are indicative of a functionally preserved language production network and the extraordinary adaptation of the human brain in order to perform the same language reception functions irrespective of sensory differences. This study is novel for the question and the population being investigated, and it is important because it presents a unique understanding of the extent of the brain’s plasticity.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Berteletti, Ilaria
Commitee: Langdon, Clifton, Maul, Kristen, Hirsch, Joy
School: Gallaudet University
Department: Educational Neuroscience
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-B 82/7(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Neurosciences, Cognitive psychology
Keywords: Hyperscanning, Neuroplasticity, Supramodality, Mutual engagement, Interactive communication
Publication Number: 28264482
ISBN: 9798557076982
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