British Sign Language (BSL) is the most common form of sign language in the United Kingdom and is used
by around 145,000 people. It has its own grammatical structure and
syntax and as a language it is not dependent nor is it strongly related
to spoken English.
People who use BSL have better reaction times
in their peripheral vision, a new study from the University of
Sheffield has found.
‘Hearing adults learning a visual-spatial language such as British Sign Language (BSL) has a positive impact on visual field response - something which is highly beneficial in many sports and when driving.’
The findings, revealed by scientists from the University's Academic
Unit of Ophthalmology and Orthoptics, show that hearing adults learning a
visual-spatial language such as BSL has a positive impact on visual
field response - something which is highly beneficial in many sports and
Dr. Charlotte Codina, lead author of the study and Lecturer in
Orthoptics at the University of Sheffield, said: "We were surprised by
the quicker response times of BSL interpreters, who haven't necessarily
known sign language since childhood, but have improved their peripheral
visual sensitivity in learning this visual language and using it daily. This shows that becoming a BSL interpreter is not only an
interesting job, but it also has benefits such as making you more alert
to changes in your peripheral field that could help when driving,
playing sport or refereeing a football match for example."
The pioneering research also found deaf adults have significantly
better peripheral vision and reaction times than both hearing adults and
BSL users, providing scientific evidence to support the common belief
that losing one of your five senses, such as hearing, can enhance others
like sight or smell.
"We found that deaf adults have faster reaction times around the
whole of the visual field, extending as far as 85 degrees peripherally
near the edge of vision," said Dr. Codina. "Our study shows that deaf people have exceptional visual abilities that hearing adults do not. These findings support the common belief in sensory compensation."
Results of the study are published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology