A common neural system is activated in hearing non-signers to process French Sign language and spoken French

Cyril Courtin, Gael Jobard, Mathieu Vigneau, Virginie Beaucousin, Annick Razafimandimby, Pierre-Yves Hervé, Emmanuel Mellet, Laure Zago, Laurent Petit, Bernard Mazoyer, Nathalie Tzourio-Mazoyer
Brain Research Bulletin. 2011-01-01; 84(1): 75-87
DOI: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2010.09.013

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1. Brain Res Bull. 2011 Jan 15;84(1):75-87. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2010.09.013.
Epub 2010 Oct 7.

A common neural system is activated in hearing non-signers to process French sign
language and spoken French.

Courtin C(1), Jobard G, Vigneau M, Beaucousin V, Razafimandimby A, Hervé PY,
Mellet E, Zago L, Petit L, Mazoyer B, Tzourio-Mazoyer N.

Author information:
(1)GIN, CI-NAPS, UMR6232, CNRS, CEA, France.

We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the areas activated
by signed narratives in non-signing subjects naïve to sign language (SL) and
compared it to the activation obtained when hearing speech in their mother
tongue. A subset of left hemisphere (LH) language areas activated when
participants watched an audio-visual narrative in their mother tongue was
activated when they observed a signed narrative. The inferior frontal (IFG) and
precentral (Prec) gyri, the posterior parts of the planum temporale (pPT) and of
the superior temporal sulcus (pSTS), and the occipito-temporal junction (OTJ)
were activated by both languages. The activity of these regions was not related
to the presence of communicative intent because no such changes were observed
when the non-signers watched a muted video of a spoken narrative. Recruitment was
also not triggered by the linguistic structure of SL, because the areas, except
pPT, were not activated when subjects listened to an unknown spoken language. The
comparison of brain reactivity for spoken and sign languages shows that SL has a
special status in the brain compared to speech; in contrast to unknown oral
language, the neural correlates of SL overlap LH speech comprehension areas in
non-signers. These results support the idea that strong relationships exist
between areas involved in human action observation and language, suggesting that
the observation of hand gestures have shaped the lexico-semantic language areas
as proposed by the motor theory of speech. As a whole, the present results
support the theory of a gestural origin of language.

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

DOI: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2010.09.013
PMID: 20933062 [Indexed for MEDLINE]

Auteurs Bordeaux Neurocampus