Testing comprehension abilities in users of British Sign Language following CVA

Brain Lang. 2005 Aug;94(2):233-48. doi: 10.1016/j.bandl.2004.12.008.


Recent imaging (e.g., MacSweeney et al., 2002) and lesion (Hickok, Love-Geffen, & Klima, 2002) studies suggest that sign language comprehension depends primarily on left hemisphere structures. However, this may not be true of all aspects of comprehension. For example, there is evidence that the processing of topographic space in sign may be vulnerable to right hemisphere damage (e.g., Hickok, Say, Bellugi, & Klima, 1996), and the influence of iconicity on comprehension has yet to be explored. In this study, comprehension testing was conducted with 15 signers with unilateral brain damage, and with elderly Deaf controls. Four tests were administered: a test of iconic and non-iconic noun comprehension, a test of verb and sentence comprehension, a test of locative sentence comprehension, and a test of classifier comprehension. All tests were administered in British Sign Language (BSL), a language that has only recently been explored with lesioned signers (see Atkinson, Marshall, Thacker, & Woll, 2004; Marshall, Atkinson, Thacker, Woll, & Smulevitch, 2004; Marshall, Atkinson, Woll, & Thacker, in press). People with left hemisphere damage were impaired relative to controls on all tests. Those with right hemisphere damage performed well in the first two tests, but were impaired on locative sentences and classifiers. Neither group showed any effect of iconicity. The results shed further light on the laterality of sign language comprehension.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Deafness / complications*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linguistics*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Sign Language*
  • Stroke / complications*
  • Stroke / diagnosis
  • Stroke / physiopathology*
  • United Kingdom