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January 24, 2006

SDSU opens high-tech language research lab

From: Daily Aztec, CA - Jan 24, 2006

Center is equipped with 3-D computer imaging systems
By: Emily Larsen, Contributor

an Diego State now has its very own high-tech research laboratory on campus. The new Laboratory for Language and Cognitive Neuroscience hosts one of the most comprehensive research programs involving signed languages in the country, and is certain to advance the way SDSU executes research.

"The main goal of the lab is to understand the nature of human language," LLCN Director Karen Emmorey said. "We are using sign language as the tool to try to understand what all languages have in common."

The LLCN is currently being funded by four multiple year grants for a total of more than $4.5 million by the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation. The lab is equipped with 3-D computer imaging technology, brain imaging equipment and an eye-tracking system that records eye movement.

"With respect to the brain," Emmorey said, "there are regions that are involved in speech processing or language processing.

"What we have found through our research at the lab is that the left hemisphere of the brain is involved in both speech and sound production."

Emmorey said these findings prove that those who use sign language are exercising the same parts of the brain to communicate as those who utilize speech.

"Because of these studies, we are proving that American Sign Language is an official, important language that must be recognized," Emmorey said. "We have a chance through the lab to give back to the deaf community by promoting the fact that American Sign Language is a human language."

Communicative disorders senior Ashley Jung said that she began working at the lab as a research assistant when she heard about the programs involving studies on ASL.

"This lab has enhanced my ability to learn the language and has allowed me to see how American Sign Language research provides insight to better understand language processes," Jung said.

Jung said that her responsibilities at the LLCN involve recording the responses of monolingual English speakers, as well as coding the signs and gestures that ASL is built upon.

"American Sign Language can teach us more about language and language processes because it uses different receptive and expressive modalities," Jung said.

Communicative disorders freshman Stephanie Hubbell, who is currently taking the second-level ASL class said that she is excited to see what the LLCN accomplishes at SDSU.

"Research studies like those that this lab is carrying out legitimize American Sign Language as a foreign language," Hubbell said. "I know from personal experience that learning to sign has changed the way that I interact with people.

"I pick up more on people's facial expressions now and the gestures that I make will more likely resemble a sign now."

Emmorey said that one of the lab's main goals is to reach out to deaf students at SDSU.

"My hope for this lab would be that we are given the opportunity to collaborate with a variety of different programs on campus," Emmorey said. "There are so many opportunities to collaborate and so many things that we can all teach one another."

© 2006 The Daily Aztec,, at San Diego State University