Behavioral and neural evidence of increased attention to the bottom half of the face in deaf signers
Shriver Center; Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center
Neurology | Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Speech and Hearing Science
PURPOSE: This study examined the effects of deafness and sign language use on the distribution of attention across the top and bottom halves of faces.
METHODS: In a composite face task, congenitally deaf signers and typically hearing controls made same/different judgments of the top or bottom halves of faces presented with the halves aligned or spatially misaligned, while event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded.
RESULTS: Both groups were more accurate when judging misaligned than aligned faces, which indicates holistic face processing. Misalignment affected all ERP components examined, with effects on the N170 resembling those of face inversion. Hearing adults were similarly accurate when judging the top and bottom halves of the faces, but deaf signers were more accurate when attending to the bottom than the top. Attending to the top elicited faster P1 and N170 latencies for both groups; within the deaf group, this effect was greatest for individuals who produced the highest accuracies when attending to the top.
CONCLUSIONS: These findings dovetail with previous research by providing behavioral and neural evidence of increased attention to the bottom half of the face in deaf signers, and by documenting that these effects generalize to a speeded task, in the absence of gaze shifts, with neutral facial expressions.
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Citation: Mitchell TV, Letourneau SM, Maslin MC. Behavioral and neural evidence of increased attention to the bottom half of the face in deaf signers. Restor Neurol Neurosci. 2013;31(2):125-39. doi: 10.3233/RNN-120233. PubMed PMID: 23142816; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3642984. Link to article on publisher's site
Mitchell, Teresa V.; Letourneau, Susan M.; and Maslin, Melissa C. T., "Behavioral and neural evidence of increased attention to the bottom half of the face in deaf signers" (2013). University of Massachusetts Medical School Faculty Publications. 251.