Neural Plasticity Workshop

The workshop “Neural Plasticity: Insights from Deafness and Language”, organised by Prof. Bencie Woll and Dr. Velia Cardin, took place on 3rd and 4th June, 2016, at the Wellcome Collection in Central London. Abstracts can be downloaded here.

Presentations were organised into four general subjects:

  • Deafness and Neural Plasticity
    • Andrej Kral, Velia Cardin, Douglas Hartley and Mairead MacSweeney
  •  Language Plasticity
    • Marina Bedny, Marcela Peña, Mary Rudner and Rachel Mayberry
  •  Cross-modal Plasticity
    • Amir Amedi, Stephen Lomber, Heidi Baseler and Pascal Barone
  •  Plasticity across the lifespan
    • David Corina, Torsten Baldeweg and Anu Sharma.

Following the presentations, there were panel discussions of the most relevant and controversial topics.  The main theoretical conclusions from the workshop regarding neural plasticity, deafness and language were the following:

  • Crossmodal plasticity results in preservation of function and task-switching in affected cortical areas.
  • Deafness causes neural reorganisation from the retina to the cortex, with measurable consequences on behaviour.
  • Superior temporal cortex in deaf humans has roles in language, working memory and task difficulty, potentially being involved in cognitive control.
  • Primary auditory cortex – visual responses in deaf individuals are weak and not related to sign language processing.
  • Right-lateralised language processing in late language learners and as a consequence of brain lesions early in life.
  • Cross-modal plasticity in auditory areas does not affect their responsiveness to auditory stimulation with a cochlear implant
  • Responses to visual speech before cochlear implantation correlate negatively with speech understanding post –implantation.
  • There is cross-modal reorganisation in adult-onset hearing loss, potentially related to allocation of cognitive resources.

The workshop was an absolute success, with attendees from all over the UK and overseas, including Spain, Italy, France, Netherlands, Israel, and Germany. It hosted a variety of professional backgrounds such as audiologists, speech and language therapists, clinical consultants, academics, teachers and members of the general public.

Activity from the workshop was reported in social media, and a story summarising the discussed topics and comments from the audience can be found here:

Support from the following organisations made this workshop possible:

  • Guarantors of Brain
  • Oticon
  • The Sieratzki Charitable Trust
  • Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre
  • ESRC

Comments from attendees in social media:

“Amazing workshop on neural plasticity and sensory impairment! Thanks a lot to the organizers and all the amazing speakers!” Meike Scheller, Bath, UK

“Thanks to @DCAL_UCL for a wonderful and stimulating Neural Plasticity Workshop!” Agnes Villwock, Hamburg, Germany

“Very exciting to see complimentary nature of Deaf language research & blind language research.” Abi Roper, London, UK

“Neural plasticity workshop at the Wellcome Trust, London! Dream line up of all my science heroes!” Alexandra Levine, York, UK