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Language goes beyond sight, sound in brain

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3:45pm, October 26, 2004

Now hear this: Two brain areas long considered crucial for perceiving and speaking words may deal in more than speech. These patches of neural tissue spring to action in deaf people who are using sign language or watching others do so, a new brain-scan study finds.

These brain regions, one near the front of the brain and the other toward the back in the so-called auditory cortex, handle fundamental features of language that can be expressed either through speech or signing, concludes a team of neuroscientists led by Laura-Ann Petitto of McGill University in Montreal.

The new findings underscore the need to explore the brain's flexibility in facilitating language, the researchers assert in the Dec. 5 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

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