I study how the human brain represents and processes language. In particular, I study whether the brain representation of language is sensitive to age of language acquisition. To address these questions I study the spatiotemporal dynamics of language processing in deaf and hearing users of American Sign Language (ASL) with different linguistic backgrounds.
I am particularly interested in the effects of delayed language acquisition on the neural processing of language; studying the brain representation of ASL offers a unique way of approaching this question. While most hearing children begin to acquire their first language before birth, many deaf children first begin to receive linguistic input later in childhood, and in some rare cases not until adolescence. My current research focusses on studying deaf individuals who have been linguistically isolated until adolescence due to deafness combined with various circumstances in upbringing. I have been studying how the brains of these individuals begin to process language when it becomes available for the first time at approximately 14 years. Do adolescent first-language learners represent language like or unlike those individuals who acquire language from birth (native learners)? Are the neural patterns associated with adolescent first-language acquisition similar or different from those associated with adolescent second-language acquisition? I approcah these questions by using anatomically constrained magnetoencephalography, a non-invasive neuroimaging technique that offers good temporal and spatial resolution.