Dr. Gutierrez is a cognitive neuroscientist interested in how atypical language development, due to early onset deafness, impacts language and reading skills, at both the behavioural and neuropsychological levels. After obtaining her PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of La Laguna (Spain), she was a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California Davis (USA) for three years. Then she spent 4 years as a research fellow at the UCL Deafness, Cognition and Language research centre (UK) and a further 3 years as an independent research fellow at the University of Valencia (Spain).
After a short lectureship at University of East London, she joined the department in July 2019. In studies of sign language processing, she found that deaf signers process both phonological and semantic information of signs using similar—but not identical—mechanisms as hearing people do to understand words. She demonstrated that some idiosyncrasies of signed languages, for example, the stronger link between phonology and semantics in signs, are reflected in the brain electrophysiological signature of sign comprehension. She also found a stronger left lateralization for sign than spoken production, possibly reflecting the specific phonological demands of signed languages. In studies of written language processing, she has demonstrated that deaf readers can use phonological information of words automatically. However, unlike hearing readers, the use of this phonological information did not contribute to reading comprehension attainment.
She has also shown that skilled deaf readers have a stronger connection between the orthographic and lexical-semantic level of processing than less skilled deaf readers. In future studies, she plans to investigate how the interplay between form and meaning of written words affects comprehension of longer texts in deaf readers. Her long-term research goal is to identify the variables that contribute to reading proficiency in people born deaf, including those with a cochlear implant.