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Talk With Your Hands: UC Merced Will Host Gesture Symposium

April 10, 2008

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

* 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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