All languages are created in the same brain areas

Last Updated: Sat, Feb 27, 2010 06:20 hrs

Be it American Sign Language or English, language is created in the same areas of the brain, claim scientists.

Karen Emmorey, a professor of speech language at San Diego State University, suggests language is universal and doesn't depend on whether people use their voices or their hands to talk.

Broca's area, related to speech production, and Wernicke's area, associated with comprehending speech, were supposed to be the two centers in the brain associated with verbal communication.

Earlier, it was assumed that these areas might be particular to speaking, because they are located spatially near areas that are connected to moving the vocal chords, and to the auditory cortex, which is used to hear sounds.

On this basis it was thought that deaf people who use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate should use other brain areas to create language, such as parts located near the visual cortex, used for seeing.

However, researchers found no difference in the brain when they tested 29 deaf native ASL signers and 64 hearing native English speakers.

They showed both groups pictures of objects, such as a cup or a parrot, and asked the subjects to either sign or speak the word, while a PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scanner measured changes in blood flow in the brain.

It was recorded that both groups, Broca's and Wernicke's areas were equally active.

"It's the same whether the language is spoken or signed," Live Science quoted Emmorey as saying.

She added: The brain doesn't make a distinctionThe fact that many signs are iconic doesn't change the neural underpinnings of language.

"It suggests the brain is organized for language, not for speech."

The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Diego, Calif. (ANI)