Since signed languages utilize visual-gestural channels, their study allows a unique opportunity for insight into the ways language and gesture may be represented in the brain. The separability of apraxia and aphasia for sign language was examined in four deaf signers who had unilateral brain damage, three to the left hemisphere and one to the right hemisphere. These patients were administered various tests for apraxia and a test of pantomime recognition. The patient with damage to the right hemisphere was not apraxic as we would expect. For the patients with damage to the left hemisphere, all of whom were aphasic for sign language, strong dissociations emerged between their capacities for sign language and their nonlinguistic motor skills. The language deficits of these patients seemed related to specific linguistic components of sign language rather than to an underlying motor disorder or an underlying disorder in the capacity to express and comprehend symbols of any kind. This separation between linguistic and nonlinguistic function is all the more striking, because sign language and gesture are transmitted in the same modality.
- Copyright © 1984 the American Physiological Society