Perception of Real-World Without a Language

Buoiano, Dr. Giancarlo and Betti, Dr. Mario and Bongioanni, Dr. Paolo (2002) Perception of Real-World Without a Language. [Conference Poster] (In Press)

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Perception of Real-World Without a Language Gian Carlo Buoiano C§, Mario Betti * and Paolo Bongioanni § §Neuroscience Dpt., University of Pisa; *CESER Center of Mental Health (Lucca), Italy C Corresponding author: Giancarlo Buoiano Via del Morello 8 Bargecchia I-55040 Corsanico (LU) Italy e-mail: Abstract The aim of this study is to show how real-world knowledge works without language. Lelio is a 76-year-old man who has been profoundly deaf since birth like his mother and brothers. In the clinical history, Lelio’s father was reported as affected by an unspecified “cerebropathy”. Lelio’s two brothers had a relatively normal life. Lelio is illiterate like his mother and brothers: therefore Lelio grew up in a rather atypical relational context, developing a pathological affection for his mother and communicating through non-linguistically structured gestures. When his mother died Lelio was 31 and had some bursts of violence. In 1956 he was admitted in a psychiatric hospital with the diagnosis of “phrenastenia due to cerebropathy, microcephalia, deafness and mutism and probable epileptic crises”. During the 35-year hospitalization, there were no attempts to teach him “to read the lips” or use a structured sign language and, consequently, read and write. Since 1997 he has been living with his adoptive family. For these reasons, Lelio is a subject totally deprived of language. Apparently, he is unable to indicate a temporal sequence, but can understand simple gestures for “before” and “after”. Simple gestures of this kind are related to his needs and might constitute a primitive form of deictic communication not inserted in a linguistic network of relations: they could be a clue for the existence of an elementary form of temporal communication. Lelio can only produce signs linked to his immediate needs. We administered him a Comprehensive Test of Non-verbal Intelligence (CTONI)1 and a color categorization test. Lelio performed in two of three subtests closely to pre-school and pre-linguistic children who have not yet fully developed their frontal lobes. We found that categorical, contextual and abstract reasoning are highly impaired in the total absence of a structured language. However, a crucial point to clear up is whether his cognitive impairments are mainly due to a reduced brain function or primarily to the total lack of language. One hypothesis is that his deafness and reduced brain function have blocked the development of any form of language, thus severely worsening his cognitive abilities. Since the present study has been carried out on a single case, it waits for further evidence. For these reasons, Lelio is a subject totally deprived of language, at least in the conventional sense. At the moment he attends a group of Theatre Therapy. In this group he uses some very simple gestures to communicate with the others. We have video-recorded Lelio and analysed these signs. They are highly iconic and deictic: i.e., he has a sign for “cat” (two raised fingers on the ears) a sign for “umbrella” (the gesture to open an umbrella), a sign for “toilette” (a raised finger). He doesn’t seem capable of indicating a temporal sequence, but he seems to understand simple gestures for “before” and “after”. He does not produce any sign that is not linked to his immediate needs. The cognitive evolution of the subject leaves open an interpretation according to which the passage from the imagistic way of thinking to the alphanumeric way of reasoning is missing. This lack can be seen as the basis that reveal an archaic and primitive thinking, where the objects are always seen in their concrete and functional perspective and Lelio’s way of thinking could precisely be of this kind.

Item Type:Conference Poster
Keywords:Language, perception, real-world categorization, DLPFC, Broca's area, frontal hypo-functionality
Subjects:Neuroscience > Neurolinguistics
ID Code:2439
Deposited By:Buoiano, Dr. Giancarlo
Deposited On:31 Aug 2002
Last Modified:11 Mar 2011 08:54

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