Sign Aphasia Test Battery

The overall objective of our research is to study the biological foundations of human language. Signed languages provide a powerful tool for investigating the nature of human language and language processing, the relation between cognition and language, and the neural organization for language. For perception, signed languages depend upon high-level vision and motion processing systems, and for production, they require the integration of motor systems involving the hands and face. These facts raise many questions: What impact does this different biological base have for grammatical systems? For the acquisition of language? How does it affect non-linguistic cognitive structures and processing? Are the same or different neural systems involved? Our laboratory investigates these issues by studying Deaf and hearing ASL signers.

The Laboratory for Cognitive Neuroscience at The Salk Institute has been researching Sign Language Aphasia for more than 20 years. This project has included a core battery of tests that were developed from the 2nd Edition of the Boston Diagnostic Aphasia Examination (working with Harold Goodglass and Edith Kaplan) that we now call the SSAT (Salk Sign-language Aphasia Test), additional language probes (including sign language specific probes) and visuospatial tests. We are excited to show this battery to other researchers and clinicians. The menu of tests we have used can be found by clicking on each testing subsection (SSAT, Other ASL Language Probes and Nonlanguage Probes). Once there you can click on each link to see individual tests (if possible, some of the tests are copyrighted and thus you need to purchase them to get the actual tests), administration protocols (adapted into American Sign Language), rationale for adaptations to the test and video demonstrations.

Note: This site is designed to be a helpful tool to those who may have a need to test a sign language user for aphasia. These are NOT standardized tests. The hope is that the user might use this information to make careful considerations into how they modify a standardized test to make sure it is culturally appropriate for use with deaf signers. You may download a copy of our poster that gives a nice detailed rationale for these adaptations here. If you would like to actually utilize our tests, we recommend contacting us and we can provide the actual tests and further instructions on using them.

A few selected books and papers below:

Emmorey, K. (2002). Language, Cognition, and the Brain: Insights from Sign Language Research. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Poizner, H., Klima, E.S., & Bellugi, U. (1987). What the hands reveal about the brain. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press/Bradford Books. Klima, E.S. & Bellugi, U. (1979). The signs of language. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Hickok, G., & Bellugi, U. (2000). The signs of aphasia. In F. Boller & J. Grafman (Eds.), Handbook of neuropsychology, (2nd ed pp 38-50). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Elsevier Science Publishers.

Bellugi, U., Poizner, H., & Klima, E.S. (1989). Language, modality and the brain. Trends in Neurosciences, 10, 380-388.

Hickok, G., Bellugi, U., & Klima, E.S. (1996). The neurobiology of signed language and its implications for the neural organization of language. Nature, 381, 699-702.

Hickok, G., Love, T., & Klima, E.S. (2002) Role of the left hemisphere in sign language comprehension. Brain and Language 82, 167-178.

A Coda shares insight – The Salk Institute by Mary Thumann

Other references available in the Appendix.