Talk With Your Hands: UC Merced Will Host Gesture Symposium

MERCED - How do we gesture, and why? What is the role of gesture in everyday communication? How did gestures evolve in human language - before speech, or after? What areas of the brain are activated with gesture?

Internationally renowned experts will discuss these and related questions at the first-ever University of California, Merced, Sigma Xi Spring Symposium on April 24 from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. The event will take place in the California Room in the Valley Terraces housing complex on campus.

Professor Teenie Matlock,Vice President of UC Merced Sigma Xi and Cognitive Science faculty, organized the event and will kick off the lectures with an overview on gesture research. Three invited gesture experts will also present their research at the symposium:

* Professor Sherman Wilcox, a linguist from University of New Mexico will speak about from the evolution of gesture in human communication.
* Professor David Corina, a neuroscientist from UC Davis, will talk about the areas of the brain that are engaged in gesture and sign language.
* Dr. Daniel Casasanto, a psycholinguist from Stanford, will address how we gesture for ourselves and others in everyday conversation.

"We plan to make this symposium an annual event, with different scientific research topics every year," Matlock said.

The event is free and open to the general public, and refreshments, including chocolates, will be served.

Sherman Wilcox is Professor of Linguistics and the Chair of the Linguistics Department at University of New Mexico. He is one of the world's leading experts on sign languages and gesture. He is the author of several books on the primacy of gesture in human communication, including "Gesture and the Nature of Language" and "The Gestural Origin of Language", as well as numerous articles on cognitive linguistics, evolution of language, gesture, sign language interpretation, deaf culture, and sign languages. His sign language research has examined several languages, including American Sign Language, Italian Sign Language, and Catalan Sign Language.

David Corina's work concerns the neural processing of language. He draws on comparisons from signed and spoken language processing as a means to elucidate core neural systems involved in human linguistic communication. Corina uses many techniques in his studies, including, behavioral, neuropsychological, functional imaging, cortical stimulation mapping and electrophysiology. He is a leading authority on sign language and neurolinguistics, and had published numerous pioneering articles. He is currently a professor in the departments of Linguistics and Psychology at UC Davis, and a member of the Center for Mind and Brain.

Daniel Casasanto integrates methods from cognitive and developmental psychology, linguistics, and cognitive neuroscience to explore connections among talking, thinking, perceiving and acting. He obtained his PhD in the Brain and Cognitive Science department at MIT. He is a currently a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford on a National Research Service Award and will begin a position as a senior investigator at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics this fall. He is the founding editor of Language and Cognition, and has published extensively on gesture and the spatial underpinnings of language.

Teenie Matlock, the organizer of the Sigma Xi symposium, is a founding faculty member in the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts at UC Merced. She is co-chair of the campus' Cognitive Science Program and an affiliate faculty member in the Institute of Cognitive and Brain Sciences at UC Berkeley. Her research investigates how language influences everyday thought, including recent work on how the wording of campaign ads influences attitudes about politicians and elections. Her publications appear in journals and books in cognitive science, linguistics, psychology, and computer science.

Founded in 1886, Sigma Xi is the international honor society of research scientists and engineers, with more than 500 chapters in North America and overseas. The society publishes "American Scientist" magazine and sponsors a variety of programs that support science and engineering. The UC Merced chapter of Sigma Xi is in its first year of operation. Sam Traina is the president this year.

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