Enhanced biological motion perception in deaf native signers

Neuropsychologia. 2021 Oct 15:161:107996. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2021.107996. Epub 2021 Aug 20.


We conducted two studies to test how deaf signed language users perceive biological motions. We created 18 Biological Motion point-light displays (PLDs) depicting everyday human actions, and 18 Scrambled control PLDs. First, we conducted an online behavioral rating survey, in which deaf and hearing raters identified the biological motion PLDs and rated how easy it was for them to identify the actions. Then, we conducted an EEG study in which Deaf Signers and Hearing Non-Signers watched both the Biological Motion PLDs and the Scrambled PLDs, and we computed the time-frequency responses within the theta, alpha, and beta EEG rhythms. From the behavioral rating task, we show that the deaf raters reported significantly less effort required for identifying the Biological motion PLDs, across all stimuli. The EEG results showed that the Deaf Signers showed theta, mu, and beta differentiation between Scrambled and Biological PLDs earlier and more consistently than Hearing Non-Signers. We conclude that native ASL users exhibit experience-dependent neuroplasticity in the domain of biological human motion perception.

Keywords: Alpha; Beta; Biological motion; EEG; Signed language; Theta.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Deafness*
  • Hearing
  • Humans
  • Motion
  • Motion Perception*
  • Sign Language