Are gestures and words all the same to the brain? According to this article, yes. I haven't had time to review it yet, but it's a tantalizing morsel. Of course, the fact that's it's a Business Week article does not bode well. We'll see. Money Quote (for now):
But new research, co-authored by Patrick J. Gannon, a physical anthropologist and chairman of basic science education at Hofstra University School of Medicine, suggests that the brain doesn't really care how it receives information. A waving hand up in the air to summon a waiter for "check please" works just fine. The language areas of the brain -- the highly evolved frontal and temporal lobes -- process simple gestures with the same snippet of tissue that's used to hear the prose of Shakespeare, according to Gannon's study.