Skip to content

Geo Kartheiser, Gallaudet’s second Ph.D. in Educational Neuroscience doctoral student successfully defends dissertation

September 25, 2018
By Kennesha Baldwin

Share:

Photo courtesy of Kennesha Baldwin.

Mr. George Scott Kartheiser, Dr. Laura-Ann Petitto’s doctoral student in Gallaudet University’s Ph.D. in Educational Neuroscience (PEN) program and a graduate research assistant in Dr. Petitto’s Brain & Language Laboratory for Neuroimaging (BL2), successfully defended his dissertation on “The Neuroplasticity of Spatial Working Memory in Signed Language Processing.” Learn more about Mr. Kartheiser’s research results. Geo will be the PEN program’s second doctoral graduate.

Dr. Gaurav Mathur, Dean of Gallaudet University’s Graduate School, noted:

Spatial cognition has been shown to be enhanced in early-exposed deaf signers of signed languages, possibly because signed languages are spatial in nature. However, spatial cognition is generally considered malleable across the lifespan. This raises the question of how age of language exposure impacts the brain’s neural systems when processing a signed language (typically impacted by the age of language exposure)-a language that occurs in space and involves spatial cognition (typically not presumed to be impacted by age of exposure). Mr. Kartheiser’s study addresses whether the age of exposure and proficiency in American Sign Language (ASL) impacts the neural activity related to aspects of spatial working memory required in the processing of signed language. Three groups of hearing, adult signers participated in this study: native signers (adults who had early exposure to ASL); proficient signers (adults with strong signing skills irrespective of age of ASL exposure), and new signers (adults learning ASL for the first time). Participants were recorded with functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) brain recording while completing a working memory n-back task. As expected, all three groups showed equal behavioral performance (as measured by accuracy) across all n-back conditions. However, only native, early- exposed signers, showed significantly greater brain activity in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a key brain site for spatial working memory especially with n-back tests, across all n-back conditions and in the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex for 1-back when compared with proficient and new signers. Taken together, these results show that early exposure to a visuospatial language impacts the way the brain processes spatial information-a finding that suggests that spatial cognition may be vulnerable to sensitive periods in development. The work also carries Educational Neuroscience implications for transformative translation in the possibility that early exposure to a signed language may be used as a way to improve spatial cognition abilities in the general population.

The members of Mr. Kartheiser’s dissertation committee are Professor Laura-Ann Petitto, Ph.D. Program in Educational Neuroscience and Department of Psychology, chair of the dissertation committee; Professor Deborah Chen Pichler, Department of Linguistics; Dr. Clifton Langdon, Ph.D. Program in Educational Neuroscience; Professor Pilar Piñar, World Languages and Cultures Department; and Professor David Uttal, Department of Psychology, Northwestern University.

Please join the University and the PEN Program in congratulating Geo on his accomplishment!

25 September 2018
By Kennesha Baldwin

Share:

Recent Posts

Roberto E. Wirth, E-’74 & H-’09, passed away on June 5 in Rome, Italy. Mr. Wirth was owner and managing director of the Hotel Hassler in Rome, one of the most prestigious family-owned hotels in the world, and owned several other hotels and resorts throughout Italy. He was a strong advocate for deaf people in...

Alumnus Timel Benton has signed a contract with the Bay Area Panthers of the Indoor Football League (IFL). Benton, who graduated last month, is the first Gallaudet Bison to sign a professional football contract since Tony Tatum signed on with the Utah Blaze in the now-disbanded Arena Football League (AFL) in May 2013. Benton was...

James Caverly, ’11, who plays Theo Dimas in Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building, will play Professor Harold Hill in the Olney Theatre Center’s summer production of Meredith Willson’s Tony-winning musical The Music Man, which opens tonight and runs through July 23. The show’s official opening is on Thursday, June 23. Sandra Mae Frank, ’13,...

About the Author

Kennesha Baldwin

Recent Posts
Deaf hotelier Roberto Wirth passes away
Alumnus Timel Benton to play professional football
Alumni, faculty featured in The Music Man at Olney Theatre Center
Related Categories
Media Inquiries

For any other media inquiry, please contact:

No media contact found!

Stay up to date on all the Gallaudet happenings, both stories and initiatives we are doing with our Signing community!​

Admissions Requirements

Hearing Undergraduate