Research & Scholarly Achievement
at Gallaudet University
Neurobiological Correlates of Phonological Awareness and Reading Outcomes
Phonological awareness, the metalinguistic ability to recognize and manipulate phonology of words, is a crucial factor for successful reading in hearing children. Historically, research has focused on increasing deaf learners’ spoken English PA in order to enhance reading outcomes, though a growing body of evidence suggests that sign language skills are a greater predictor of reading proficiency than English PA. To investigate the relationship between ASL proficiency and reading, several studies have explored the effect of sign language PA on reading, finding a positive relationship between the two measures. However, the cognitive mechanisms supporting such a relationship remain unclear. To better understand the relationship between PA and reading, in this study we ask whether the brain systems for PA are tied to the spoken modality or are modality independent and involved in both signed and spoken languages. We use functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) neuroimaging to examine how brain systems for phonological awareness are impacted by language modality, age, and reading development in young children. This project has important implications for our understanding of the neurobiology of language and the relationship between language and reading in all children.