Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Musings on the Brain

Consensus is that I had my head up my A**. I apologize.



Adam said...

"From what I understand, brain MRI scans of people using sign language lights up different areas of the brain than MRI scans of people communicating verbally. This is huge. It means that the entire brain development process takes one path for verbal people and the brain takes an entirely different developmental path for non speaking ASL people."

That is so, so, so wrong. In fact, it is the opposite--the same language regions are activated whether the person uses sign language or verbal language. Countless research studies since the 1960s have proven this. I work in a neurolinguistics lab that does MRIs and PET scans of Deaf people and the results have consistently shown that there is little difference in brain activation. I think you really should take down this article or at least seriously revise this because your information is very false.

And if you are wondering, I'm a ASL/CI user myself. :)

K.L. said...

Hi Adam,
You have good information. Could you put up a comment with a link to some of the research?

Are they doing MRIs and PET scans regarding how the auditory center of the brain works? I do know that there is a distinct connection between ability to speak and success with the ci, even if the person has been deaf for many years. It is one of the indicators of potential success with the ci. Oral deaf do better than ASL deaf. I'm curious about the brain differences that cause that.

K.L. said...

Adam, Here are some of the links I have been looking at:
This looks at the brain structure itself. The next one studies language processing, and matches what you are saying:
This study also supports your response:

But how are other areas of the brain changed when growing up deaf as opposed to hearing? Are they the same?

AL said...

I have to agree with Adam about potentially revising or removing this post. I find many things in this post to be offensive. Deaf people are not more emotional than hearing people. We are not more in touch with our feelings than hearing people. This is a common misunderstanding due to our use of facial expressions for linguistic purposes, which can lead us to look more animated while we converse. Deaf people can be as logical as hearing people, however with our history of oppression we are understandably more sensitive to issues that affect us.

About language development and the brain, the brain is extremely plastic and can handle languages in different modalities. It is true that if the brain is not exposed to sound at an early age, then it is harder to interpret sound at a later age. However that does not mean the brain travels on fixed paths- either ASL or spoken English- from the beginning. Adam can supply us with references that show hearing bilinguals are able to cognitively process both languages just fine, despite being exposed to a visual language at an early age. The same principle can be applied to deaf children with cochlear implants or hard of hearing children who use both ASL and spoken English.

K.L. said...

I have edited the blog. If I removed that part then the comments would not make sense. I apologise if I have offended anyone. That is not my intent. I just have questions, and I am interested in the Deaf perspective.

Anonymous said...

Well you haven't done anything about revising the "deaf people are emotional" part.

I'm hearing and I'm pissed you're saying I'm logical not emotional! I really don't appreciate a blanket stereotype like that, mon cherie! I can be as emotional, angry, expressive, weepy, jovial, and astonished as many of my hollywood counterparts. Yes, I'm an actor, and I don't appreciate you saying that Deaf people are more expressive than us!!!

Get my point? Really bad logic here for a hearing person. Geez. Maybe you're the emotional one writing stuff and not backing them up.

K.L. said...

I think I've hit some nerves.

I didn't mean that Deaf people are ONLY emotional or that hearing people are ONLY logical. I don't think hearing people have any more logic than Deaf people. I do think that many Deaf people are more in touch with their emotions than many hearing people. That is not a bad thing. I know a lot of screwed up hearing people that need to get better in touch with their own emotions.

I'm just wondering if a lifetime of better emotional connections causes difference in brain development.

Dianrez said...

Aspects are being overlooked here: ASL is a motor activity, so would logically light up the motor areas of the brain as well as the language areas of the brain.

Emotional differences as yet isn't documented and may be based on old, old research that was biased toward hearing norms.

ASL has a visual aspect that includes facial expressions and body motions that may be interpreted as emotional by hearing standards. This actually is an equivalent to intonation and emphasis in spoken languages.

Yes, it is offensive and highly questionable to suggest that ASL using Deaf and oral deaf adults differ in brain structure and function. The danger is that it can be generalized to limit opportunities for deaf people.

Suggesting that oral and CI implanted deaf people have better results in brain development is asking to be blown out of the water by the hundreds of ASL-using Deaf of Deaf parents who excel in language and school subjects earlier than their oral classmates. There is research to back this up.

K.L. said...

Hi Dianrez,
I do want to clarify that I never said oral had better brain development. Only DIFFERENT brain development. I truly think that if there are differences, then there have to be areas where ASL Deaf have much MORE development than hearing or oral deaf. There would have to be.

I guess my point was that to get the best of everything, then it is better to give kids both ASL and oral language.

AL said...

K.L., when it comes to the emotional v. logical issue, your stance is a little patronizing. I'd suggest that you read Harlan Lane's "Mask of Benevolence" to see how terms can be used to oppress a group of people.

About brain wiring, yes even oral deaf people who have the same dB levels as signing deaf people have better success with cochlear implants. That is simply because they have more practice with interpreting ambiguous sounds (amplified through hearing aids) and a lifetime of lipreading experience. This stimulates the auditory area of the brain, although there is still research that needs to be done to improve our understanding of the function of the auditory area of the brain in oral deaf people. Perhaps Adam could describe to us how the auditory area is used in deaf people who use ASL.

Anonymous said...

So it's our nerves, not your completely ignorant, patronizing, paternalistic and downright dangerous remarks?

Yeah, blame it on us.

Just try to imagine a lifetime of idiotic assumptions and baseless interpretations of our language and culture thrown at us everyday... Wouldn't you become "emotional"?

Heck, I think we need to become more emotional and try to stimulate some of the nerves in the supposedly logical area of your brain.

Here's some food for thought. The inherent danger of paradigms and the prevailing hegemonic discourse in the academic field prevents us from realizing that there are multiple truths. Not only that, false information can easily be perpetuated by those in power such as yourself.

For instance, Psychology of Deafness written in 1964 by Myklebust claimed that D/deaf people were more immature, had increased emotional problems, were faulty, more naïve, more primitive, inferior in physical coordination, exhibited marked retardation in language, only able to complete concrete tasks, schizophrenic, maladjusted, belligerent, in need of admiration, subhuman, deviated, isolated, paranoid, neurotic, suspicious, psychotic, dependent, autistic, and depressed. He also claimed that D/deaf males were effeminate and D/deaf females were masculine (Myklebust, 1964).

This textbook was used as the standard training text for teachers of deaf students from mid-1960’s until 1980’s (Maher, 1996), and was written mainly for students in audiology, language pathology, psychology and also as a reference text for people “concerned with the various ramifications of sensory deprivation” (Review of Publications, 1965).

Deaf researchers, Humphries and Padden (in Maher, 1996) commented, “Myklebust’s authority was enough to establish the tone of official thought. For the next generation of those influential in deciding how D/deaf children in America would be taught, Helmer Myklebust’s Psychology of Deafness set the standard” (p. 23). This is an example of how powerful and dangerous hegemonic discourse in academic fields can be for those who are traditionally unrepresented, such as your current blog post.

Academic power is achieved through controlling the academic discourse, and by devaluing discourses of the underrepresented, such as Deaf people. Research in the field of D/deaf education typically focuses on the abilities deaf people lack, rather than the abilities D/deaf people have. That in itself is oppressive (Erting, 1992; Lane, 1999; Evans, 2004). A Deaf as ‘deficient’ focus is a way for people in power to keep control of academic knowledge and maintain their positions of power.

The majority of the research in the Deaf community is done by hearing people, unthinkable when it comes to white researchers writing about black people (Lane, 1999). Even the American Annals of the Deaf, a professional journal includes “exceedingly little of the deaf point of view” (Lane, 2003, p. 71).

And when it comes to money, “Hearing people require large amounts of money to conduct much of the research that they perform on deaf people” and the money “goes almost exclusively to hearing people” (Lane, 1999, p. 70-71).

People with academic power, for instance, the “peer reviewers” of journals often find studies that have a “deaf center… unworthy of dissemination…because of ethnographical methods that may have been used…” and that the hegemonic system works to filter out any potentially Deaf-centric stance (Lane, 1999, p. 71).

I suggest you read some more of Lane and Ladd's work before blogging some more, at least for your daughter's sake.

K.L. said...

Well said.

Thank you.

Deaf Cinema said...

speaking of brains and CI - is it true that folks with CI can not have MRIs?



Dianrez said...

Just came back and noticed your comment about removal of your blog post. Thanks for the smile of the day.

However, I don't think you should remove the post. It helps to explain how the comments following it came about.

Karen Mayes said...

Deaf Cinema,

I'd like to answer your question. It depends on the brand of CI.

Advanced Bionics's CI... can have MRI.

Cochlear's Nucleus Freedom...can't have MRI.

Karen Mayes said...

Anyway, I did enjoy your posting, even though I did notice that the commenters have different perspectives.

My son was born with normal hearing, so his brain is more or less hard-wired as a hearing person. Hence strong aural skills for a long time. His bane is his progressive hearing loss and in September he will receive a CI. I did notice during the last two years, he used his visual skills more to compensate for his missing out many sounds, which he did not like it. That influenced him to make the decision to get a CI.

I don't know how brains work, etc... brains are a mystery ;o)

Dianrez said...

Anonymous' rather learned and referenced essay above is worth consideration for anyone.

I'm wondering why it had to be contributed under "anonymous" because that would devalue its worth.

K.L. said...

I agree. I was disappointed that it was anonymous. It would have had more impact if it had been signed.

I did contemplate leaving the post up, but didn't want to annoy people any more than I had. The only reason I didn't delete it entirely was because of the quality of the comments.

I will say that I learn a lot more from my screw ups than I do from anything else. This post was vaulable to me simply because of all the great information I got.

K.L. said...

Deaf Cinema,
More info about MRIs. I believe Med El also has an implant that can be left in for the scan, but you have to check the strength of the scan first. Nucleus products require that the magnet be removed first. The implant itself does not need to be removed, but it is still a pain in the butt. But the magnet removal is easily done under a local, then gets put back right after. Unfortunately, the site then has to heal before you can connect to the magnet again.