To explore this aim I employed both behavioural and neuroimaging methods, in adult deaf signers and hearing non-signers, carefully matched on age, sex, education and nonverbal intelligence. We found that deaf signers performed better than expected and on a par with hearing peers on all arithmetic tasks, except for multiplication, possibly because the groups studied here were very carefully matched. However, the neural networks recruited for arithmetic and phonology differed between groups. During multiplication tasks, deaf signers showed an increased reliance on cortex of the right parietal lobe complemented by the left inferior frontal gyrus. In contrast, hearing non-signers relied on cortex of the left frontal and parietal lobe during multiplication. This suggests that while hearing non-signers recruit phonology-dependent arithmetic fact retrieval processes for multiplication, deaf signers recruit non-verbal magnitude manipulation processes. In conclusion, these findings suggest that language modality-specific differences between sign and speech in different ways can explain why deaf signers perform at lower levels than hearing non-signers on tasks that include dealing with digits.
Associate professor, Docent