Response bias reveals enhanced attention to inferior visual field in signers of American Sign Language
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Deafness results in cross-modal plasticity, whereby visual functions are altered as a consequence of a lack of hearing. Here, we present a reanalysis of data originally reported by Dye et al. (PLoS One 4(5):e5640, 2009) with the aim of testing additional hypotheses concerning the spatial redistribution of visual attention due to deafness and the use of a visuogestural language (American Sign Language). By looking at the spatial distribution of errors made by deaf and hearing participants performing a visuospatial selective attention task, we sought to determine whether there was evidence for (1) a shift in the hemispheric lateralization of visual selective function as a result of deafness, and (2) a shift toward attending to the inferior visual field in users of a signed language. While no evidence was found for or against a shift in lateralization of visual selective attention as a result of deafness, a shift in the allocation of attention from the superior toward the inferior visual field was inferred in native signers of American Sign Language, possibly reflecting an adaptation to the perceptual demands imposed by a visuogestural language.
KeywordsDeafness Visual selective attention Visual hemifield Hemispheric lateralization Sign language
We are indebted to Dara Baril, Wyatte Hall, Danielle (Hagemann) Lynch, and Kim Scanlon for assistance with data collection. Many thanks also to the insightful and constructive comments from our reviewers. This research was supported by the National Institutes for Health (NIDCD R01 DC004418) and the National Science Foundation (SBE 0541953).
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