The Rhythms of Sign Language

Discovery

The Rhythms of Sign Language

Brain activity in the visual cortex aligns to rhythms of hands in sign language, new research shows

Two women communicate using sign language.

New research shows that activity in the visual cortex aligns to rhythms of hands in sign language.

July 14, 2017

From an outside perspective, understanding a spoken language versus a signed language seems like it might involve entirely different brain processes. One process involves your ears and the other your eyes, and scientists have long known that different parts of the brain process these different sensory inputs.

To scientists at the University of Chicago interested in the role rhythm plays in how humans understand language, the differences between these inputs provided an opportunity for experimentation. The resulting study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences helps explain that rhythm is important for processing language whether spoken or signed.

Previous studies have shown the rhythm of speech changes the rhythm of neural activity involved in understanding spoken language. When humans listen to spoken language, the brain’s auditory cortex activity adjusts to follow the rhythms of sentences. This phenomenon is known as entrainment.

But even after researchers identified entrainment, understanding the role of rhythm in language comprehension remained difficult. Neural activity changes when a person is listening to spoken language — but the brain also locks onto random, meaningless bursts of sound in a very similar way and at a similar frequency.

That’s where the University of Chicago team saw an experimental opportunity involving sign language. While the natural rhythms in spoken language are similar to what might be considered the preferred frequency for the auditory cortex, this is not true for sign language and the visual cortex. The rhythms from the hand movements in ASL are substantially slower than that of spoken language.

The researchers used electroencephalography (EEG) to record the brain activity of participants as they watched videos of stories told in American Sign Language (ASL). One group was made up of participants who were fluent in ASL, while the other was made up of non-signers. The researchers then analyzed the rhythms of activity in different regions of the participants’ brains.

The brain activity rhythms in the visual cortex followed the rhythms of sign language. Importantly, the researchers observed entrainment at the low frequencies that carry meaningful information in sign language, not at the high frequencies usually seen in visual activity.

“By looking at sign, we’ve learned something about how the brain processes language more generally,” said principal investigator Daniel Casasanto, Professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago. “We’ve solved a mystery we couldn’t crack by studying speech alone.”

While the ASL-fluent and non-signer groups demonstrated entrainment, it was stronger in the frontal cortex for ASL-fluent participants, compared to non-signers. The frontal cortex is the area of the brain that controls cognitive skills. The authors postulate that frontal entrainment may be stronger in the fluent signers because they are more able to predict the movements involved and therefore more able to predict and entrain to the rhythms they see.

“This study highlights the importance of rhythm to processing language, even when it is visual. Studies like this are core to the National Science Foundation’s Understanding the Brain Initiative, which seeks to understand the brain in action and in context,” said Betty Tuller, a program manager for NSF’s Perception, Action, and Cognition Program. “Knowledge of the fundamentals of how the brain processes language has the potential to improve how we educate children, treat language disorders, train military personnel, and may have implications for the study of learning and memory.”

—  Stanley Dambroski, (703) 292-7728 sdambros@nsf.gov
—  Madeline Beal


Investigators
Steven Small
Brooke Noonan
Howard Nusbaum
Meghan Hammond
Daniel Casasanto

Related Institutions/Organizations
University of Chicago

Related Awards
#1144082 Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP)
#1257101 How motor action shapes emotion in the brain
#0116293 MRI: Acquisition of Instrumentation to Measure the Time-Course and Distribution of Cortical Activity in Perceptual Cognitive, and Social Psychological Processing

Total Grants
$18,146,138

Veterans helping veterans through research

Discovery

Veterans helping veterans through research

Research Experiences for Undergraduates program addresses challenge of veterans enrolling in college

Professor Karen Wolford and former student

A mobile phone application may help people dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.

November 10, 2017

Honoring veterans’ military service and attending to their re-entry into civilian life are important parts of how our nation celebrates veterans this month. For some veterans, re-entry may involve enrolling in college. Moving from life in the military to life on a college campus, however, can be challenging.

A program at Syracuse University’s Falk College, partially supported by the University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families, addresses this challenge by training undergraduate students, including veterans, to conduct research on the effects of trauma in veteran populations. Part of a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) site funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Training Diverse Undergraduate Teams of Veterans and Non-Veterans to Conduct Trauma Research with Veterans program helps students look at the chemical, clinical, cognitive and family factors associated with the various outcomes of trauma.

Now in its 7th year, the Syracuse program begins with a four-week summer workshop that includes interdisciplinary coursework, faculty mentorship and the development of research projects. During the fall semester, students continue their research under the supervision of a faculty member from Syracuse University, State University of New York (SUNY) at Oswego, and SUNY Upstate Medical Center.

The program’s mix of veterans and non-veterans benefits both groups. Working closely with non-veterans can help veterans re-integrate into society. And it benefits the non-veteran undergraduates to work with researchers who are veterans.

“The non-veteran undergraduates gain a better understanding of the veteran population and the context for trauma research,” said Brooks Gump, Falk Family Endowed Professor of Public Health and co-director of the program.

One topic that researchers have explored in this program is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which affects millions of Americans and is particularly prevalent among veterans. Students partner with leading researchers who study the identification and development of PTSD. The ability to better predict the development of PTSD could improve efforts to identify and treat the disorder. The students also studied treatment outcomes and social relationships in individuals with PTSD.

In addition to conducting research, REU Site students and their mentors are encouraged to present their research findings at a national or international conference. The hands-on research and presentation experience helps prepare the students for graduate degrees in research fields.

Ivan Castro, currently a project manager with Syracuse University’s REU site, is himself a veteran of the Navy and of the program. He credits his time in the program with opening his eyes.

“The experience really opened a window into what research actually entails and allowed me to consider graduate school, something I had not given a thought to before that,” Castro said. “While working on my degree, I was also working full-time, and I couldn’t afford to volunteer in a lab. This REU gave me invaluable experience and insight and financial support during the summer. The program really pushed me towards pursuing a research profession.”

—  Stanley Dambroski, (703) 292-7728 sdambros@nsf.gov
—  Bradley Cooke, NSF bcooke@nsf.gov


Investigators
Brooks Gump
Karen Wolford

Related Institutions/Organizations
Syracuse University
SUNY College at Oswego

Locations
New York

Related Programs
Research Experiences for Undergraduates

Related Awards
#1559794 Collaborative Research: REU Site: Training Diverse Undergraduate Teams of Veterans and Non-Veterans to Conduct Trauma Research with Veterans
#1559793 Collaborative Research: REU Site: Training Diverse Undergraduate Teams of Veterans and Non-Veterans to Conduct Trauma Research with Veterans

Total Grants
$346,323

Secretary Cascos reminds voters of Feb. 1 Registration Deadline

voters must register by February 1 for March 1 Primary Election

January 26, 2016
Contact: Alicia Pierce or Mari Bergman
512-463-5770

AUSTIN, TX – Today, Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos reminded Texans that February 1 is the deadline to register in time for the March 1 Primary Election.

“I encourage all qualified Texans who aren’t already registered or who need to update their registrations to do so before the February 1 deadline,” said Secretary Cascos. “This primary election will help decide which candidates will be on the ballot in November.”

Texans can register to vote in several ways including downloading a mail-in application at VoteTexas.gov. Applications must be postmarked February 1 or earlier to meet the deadline. Eligible voters may also apply in person at their county voter registrar’s office.

Texans can check their registration status through VoteTexas.gov and even make updates online if they are not changing their county of registration. The 30-day deadline also applies to registration updates such as changing your address.

Texans do not select a party when registering. Qualified voters are free to vote in either the Republican or Democratic Primary, but not both. This includes the primary runoff election.
 
Early voting begins February 16 and continues through February 26. The deadline to request a ballot by mail is February 19.

Photo ID is currently required for voting in person. The seven forms of approved photo ID are:

  • Texas driver license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)
  • Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS
  • Texas personal identification card issued by DPS
  • Texas handgun license issued by DPS
  • United States military identification card containing the person’s photograph
  • United States citizenship certificate containing the person’s photograph
  • United States passport

With the exception of the U.S. citizenship certificate, the identification must be current or have expired no more than 60 days before being presented at the polling place.

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Secretary Cascos reminds Texans Early Voting Starts Feb. 16

February 12, 2016
Contact: Alicia Pierce or Mari Bergman
512-463-5770

AUSTIN, TX – Today, Texas Secretary of State Carlos H. Cascos reminded Texans that early voting for the March 1 Primary Election begins on Tuesday, February 16, and runs through Friday, February 26.

“I encourage voters to take full advantage of the convenience of voting early,” said Secretary Cascos. “Don’t forget, during early voting you can cast your ballot at any polling location within your county of registration.”

The primary election will determine which candidates will appear on the ballot as the nominees from the Republican and Democrat parties in the November general election. Texas voters may vote in either the Republican or Democratic primaries, but not both.

The last day to register to vote in time for the March 1 Primary was February 1, but qualified Texans who missed the deadline can still register by April 25 for the primary runoff election on May 24.

Secretary Cascos also reminded voters they will need to bring photo ID if they cast a ballot in person.

“The photo ID requirement is still in effect,” said Cascos. “Voters will need to present one of seven forms of approved photo ID when coming to the polls.”

The forms of approved photo ID are:

  1. Texas Driver License – issued by the Department of Public Safety (DPS)
  2. Texas Personal Identification Card – issued by DPS
  3. Texas Concealed Handgun License – issued by DPS
  4. United States Military Identification card containing the person’s photograph
  5. United States Citizenship Certificate containing the person’s photograph
  6. United States Passport – issued by the U.S. government
  7. Election Identification Certificate – issued free by DPS

Any citizen who does not have an approved ID can apply for a free Election Identification Certificate and should visit VoteTexas.gov or call 1-800-252-VOTE for more information.

Voters can contact their county elections office to locate the most convenient polling place, or they can follow the links at www.votetexas.gov. During Early Voting, polling place times will vary from county to county.

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Secretary Cascos reminds Texans early voting for runoff starts May 16

May 14, 2016
Contact: Alicia Pierce or Mari Bergman
512-463-5770

AUSTIN, TX – Today, Texas Secretary of State Carlos H. Cascos reminded Texans that early voting for the May 24 Primary Runoff Election begins on Monday, May 16, and runs through Friday, May 20.

“The primary runoff is an opportunity for voters to decide who will represent their party in races where no candidate secured a majority of the votes,” said Secretary Cascos. “It’s a time to finalize which Republican and Democrat candidates will be on the ballot in November.”

If voters participated in the primary election for either the Republican or Democrat party, they will be limited to voting in the same party for the runoff. Voters who did not vote in the primary or participate in any third party nominating conventions may still vote in the runoff and may select either party runoff election in which to vote.

Secretary Cascos also reminded voters they will need to bring photo ID if they cast a ballot in person.

“The photo ID requirement is still in effect,” said Cascos. “Voters will need to present one of seven forms of approved photo ID when coming to the polls.”

The forms of approved photo ID are:

  1. Texas Driver License – issued by the Department of Public Safety (DPS)
  2. Texas Personal Identification Card – issued by DPS
  3. Texas Concealed Handgun License – issued by DPS
  4. United States Military Identification card containing the person’s photograph
  5. United States Citizenship Certificate containing the person’s photograph
  6. United States Passport – issued by the U.S. government
  7. Election Identification Certificate – issued free by DPS

Any citizen who does not have an approved ID can apply for a free Election Identification Certificate and should visit VoteTexas.gov or call 1-800-252-VOTE for more information.

Voters can contact their county elections office to locate the most convenient polling place, or they can follow the links at www.votetexas.gov. During early voting, polling place times will vary from county to county and voters may vote at any polling location in their county.

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Voters in HD120 special runoff election have additional ID options

July 24, 2016
Contact: Alicia Pierce or Mari Bergman
512-463-5770

AUSTIN, TX – As a result of a court order issued on Saturday, voters casting a ballot in the special runoff election for Texas House District 120 will have additional options for identifying themselves at the polls.

These provisions are temporary and apply only to this special runoff election.

If a voter does not have one of the seven forms of approved photo ID, a voter may vote provisionally and sign an affidavit attesting to the fact that the voter is the same person who personally appeared at the polling place, the voter is casting a ballot while voting in person, and the voter has a reasonable impediment which keeps the voter from obtaining an acceptable form of photo ID.  Along with the affidavit, voters may present either a valid voter registration certificate or current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the name of the voter.

If a voter does not have one of those requested documents, the voter will need to provide their date of birth and the last four digits of their Social Security number as a part of the affidavit. Absent conclusive evidence of impersonation or an incomplete provisional ballot package, the provisional ballot shall be counted.

Only in-person voters without one of the seven forms of approved ID need to sign the affidavit in order to vote. The seven forms of approved photo ID are:

  • Texas driver license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)
  • Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS
  • Texas personal identification card issued by DPS
  • Texas license to carry a handgun issued by DPS
  • United States military identification card containing the person’s photograph
  • United States citizenship certificate containing the person’s photograph
  • United States passport

With the exception of the U.S. citizenship certificate, the identification must be current or have expired no more than 60 days before being presented for voter qualification at the polling place.

Early voting in person for the HD 120 special runoff election begins on Monday, July 25, and ends on Friday, July 29. Election Day is August 2.

Previous to her resignation, HD 120 was represented by Ruth Jones McClendon. The district includes parts of Bexar County.

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Secretary of State Carlos Cascos Kicks Off Vote Texas Campaign

September 14, 2016
Contact: Alicia Pierce or Mari Bergman
512-463-5770

AUSTIN, TX – Texas Secretary of State Carlos H. Cascos unveiled the state’s voter education campaign today to a University of Texas at Austin undergraduate American history class of future and first-time voters. Vote Texas is a statewide, bilingual effort to engage voters through the Nov. 8 general election about the state’s photo ID requirements and additional options for voters who cannot obtain an approved photo ID, mandated by court order.

“I’m excited to kick off Vote Texas with these first-time and future voters who are the cornerstone of our democracy,” Cascos said. “As the state’s chief election officer, I take very seriously the responsibility of making sure every eligible Texan who wants to vote in the upcoming election has the necessary information to do so.”

Cascos talked with the students about the seven forms of acceptable photo identification voters will be asked to present at the polls in November. He also reminded them that voters who cannot obtain one of the seven approved forms of approved photo ID, and who have a reasonable impediment or difficulty to obtaining one of the approved forms of photo ID,  now have additional options when voting in person. The session was moderated by Dr. H.W. Brands, a noted American history expert and professor at the University of Texas.

“We couldn’t think of a better way to ensure many of these first-time voters are prepared for the polls in November,” Brands said. “I applaud the secretary’s efforts to educate all Texans on what they need to know before voting.”

Kassie Barroquillo of UT Votes, a nonpartisan student organization that organizes voter registration and education activities to increase civic engagement and electoral awareness, provided information on how to register to vote.

As part of Vote Texas, Cascos and members of his team will be traveling the state through Election Day talking to all Texans in both English and Spanish about voting. Efforts include special outreach to first-time voters – both students and new Texans – seniors, members of the military and minority groups. The campaign will include advertisements in English and Spanish, which will run via television, radio, community newspapers and online throughout the state.

Voters with questions about how to cast a ballot in these elections can call 1-800-252-VOTE and visit www.VoteTexas.gov.

Early voting for the Nov. 8 election begins Oct. 24 and ends Nov. 4.

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Voters who do not possess and cannot reasonably obtain one of the seven forms of approved photo ID have additional options at the polls

AUSTIN, TX – The Office of the Texas Secretary of State reminds voters who do not possess and cannot reasonably obtain a form of approved photo ID that they now have additional options when voting in person. These additional options apply to current and upcoming school tax elections and the November General Election.

“My agency is working to make sure Texans know about these changes and that all qualified voters are ready to cast a ballot,” said Secretary Cascos.

Currently, Texas voters who do not possess and cannot reasonably obtain one of the seven forms of approved photo ID have additional options when casting their ballots. As provided by court order, if a voter does not possess and is not reasonably able to obtain one of the seven forms of approved photo ID, the voter may vote by (1) signing a declaration at the polls explaining why the voter is reasonably unable to obtain one of the seven forms of approved photo ID, and (2) providing one of various forms of supporting documentation.

Supporting documentation can be a certified birth certificate (must be an original), a valid voter registration certificate, a copy or original of one of the following: current utility bill, bank statement, government check, or paycheck, or other government document that shows the voter’s name and an address, although government documents which include a photo must be original and cannot be copies. If a voter meets these requirements and is otherwise eligible to vote, the voter will be able to cast a regular ballot in the election.

  • The seven forms of approved photo ID are:
  • Texas driver license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)
  • Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS
  • Texas personal identification card issued by DPS
  • Texas license to carry a handgun issued by DPS
  • United States military identification card containing the person’s photograph
  • United States citizenship certificate containing the person’s photograph
  • United States passport

With the exception of the U.S. citizenship certificate, the approved photo ID must be current or have expired no more than four years before being presented for voter qualification at the polling place.

Voters with a disability may continue to apply with the county registrar for a permanent exemption to showing approved photo ID (which now may be expired no more than four years) at the polls. Also, voters who (1) have a consistent religious objections to being photographed or (2) do not present one of the seven forms of approved photo ID because of certain natural disasters as declared by the President of the United States or the Texas Governor, may continue apply for a temporary exemption to showing approved photo ID at the polls.

Voters with questions about how to cast a ballot in these elections can call 1-800-252-VOTE.

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Secretary Cascos Reminds Texans Early Voting in Person begins Monday

AUSTIN, TX – Texas Secretary of State Carlos H. Cascos reminds Texans early voting at the polls begins Monday, Oct. 24 and runs through Friday, Nov. 4.

“In-person early voting is a convenient option for voters,” Secretary Cacscos said. “During early voting you can cast a ballot at any polling place in your county of registration and also avoid lines that may form on Election Day.”

Secretary Cascos also stressed that early voting is a way to ensure voters are able to vote even if they encounter unexpected events on Election Day.

“Sometimes things happen like a flat tire or a sick child,” Secretary Cascos said. “By voting early you don’t have to worry if you can’t make it to the polls on Election Day.”

Just like on Election Day, identification requirements will be in effect.

Voters who possess one of the seven forms of approved photo ID must use it at the polls. The seven forms of approved photo ID are:

  • Texas driver license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)
  • Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS
  • Texas personal identification card issued by DPS
  • Texas license to carry a handgun issued by DPS
  • United States military identification card containing the person’s photograph
  • United States citizenship certificate containing the person’s photograph
  • United States passport

(With the exception of the U.S. citizenship certificate, the approved photo ID must be current or have expired no more than four years before being presented for voter qualification at the polling place.)

Currently, Texas voters who do not possess and cannot reasonably obtain one of the seven forms of approved photo ID have additional options when casting their ballots. As provided by court order, if a voter does not possess and is not reasonably able to obtain one of the seven forms of approved photo ID, the voter may vote by (1) signing a declaration at the polls explaining why the voter is reasonably unable to obtain one of the seven forms of approved photo ID, and (2) providing one of various forms of supporting documentation.

Supporting documentation can be a certified birth certificate (must be an original), a valid voter registration certificate, a copy or original of one of the following: current utility bill, bank statement, government check, or paycheck, or other government document that shows the voter’s name and an address, although government documents which include a photo must be original and cannot be copies. If a voter meets these requirements and is otherwise eligible to vote, the voter will be able to cast a regular ballot in the election.

Voters with questions about the registration process and how to cast a ballot can visit VoteTexas.gov or call 1-800-252-VOTE. Texans can join the #VoteTexas conversation this election by following Vote Texas’ Facebook, Twitter and Instagram social platforms.

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Secretary Pablos Delivers Keynote Address At Hiring Our Heroes Transition Summit At Fort Bliss

“The best place to find qualified workers is right here” 

Secretary Pablos standing at a podium giving an address
Secretary Pablos delivers the keynote address to
the Hiring Our Heroes Transition Summit at Fort Bliss
in El Paso.

EL PASO, TX – Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos today delivered the keynote address at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes Transition Summit at Fort Bliss. The Hiring Our Heroes Transition Summit is a two-day event featuring panel discussions, recruiter training, and networking events for employers, military leaders, and job seekers. Secretary Pablos expressed his deep gratitude to the veterans for their service and highlighted Texas’ ongoing commitment to providing ample opportunities for veterans transitioning into the workforce.
 
“The relationship between Fort Bliss and El Paso is extremely unique, and the relationship our community leaders have built to bring more veterans into the workforce is unique as well,” Secretary Pablos said. “Companies want to know that a community like El Paso has a talent pipeline that can be relied upon in the present, but also in the future. The best place to find qualified workers is right here – you are already qualified, all we need to do is match your skill set with the right employers. My personal goal is that you all stay right here in the State of Texas.”

As of January 1, 2016, new veteran-owned business entities in the State of Texas can qualify for exemptions from certain filing fees through the Secretary of State’s Business Filings Division and the Texas franchise tax for the first five years of operation. Since that time, more than 430 new veteran-owned business entities have been formed in the State of Texas.
 
Learn more about benefits for veteran-owned businesses in Texas.

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