Dr. Karen Emmorey is a Distinguished Professor in the School of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences at San Diego State University and the Director of the Laboratory for Language and Cognitive Neuroscience. Dr. Emmorey’s research focuses on what sign languages can reveal about the nature of human language, cognition, and the brain. She studies the processes involved in how deaf and hearing people produce and comprehend sign language and how these processes are represented in the brain. Her research interests also include bimodal bilingualism (i.e., sign-speech bilingualism) and the neurocognitive underpinnings of reading skill in profoundly deaf adults.
The Signing Brain: What Sign Languages Tell Us about Human Language
Sign languages are understood by the eye rather than by the ear and are produced by the hands rather than by the tongue. Are the same key brain areas involved in producing and comprehending spoken and signed languages? Does the brain distinguish between gesture and sign? Does the biology of linguistic expression affect the brain bases of spatial language? The “yes” answers to these questions show that the human brain is designed for linguistic functions, regardless of the sensory-motor properties of language, and that language modality can also modulate aspects of the language network.