Boosting Brain Connectivity Through Handwriting

In the contemporary digital landscape, laptops and smartphones have emerged as indispensable companions for learners and workers alike. Yet, fresh insights from a Norwegian study suggest the importance of occasionally stepping away from our routine typing engagements. The research has delved into the disparities between handwriting and typing, with a focus on how each activity influences brain connectivity.

Findings indicate that handwriting, an age-old skill, generates more complex patterns of activating brain regions that keyboard use fails to stimulate. The detailed process of forming letters and the precise actions required for writing by hand are found to engage broader areas of the brain related to processing and memory than the act of typing. This extensive neural engagement is pivotal for the creation of memories and the assimilation of new information, making handwriting a valuable tool for enhancing learning.

The study utilized advanced electroencephalograms (EEGs) to gather data from 36 college students. These participants were asked to either handwrite or type out words shown on a screen, using just one finger for typing. The analysis revealed that handwriting led to a significant increase in the connectivity among various brain regions. This enhancement was not observed to the same extent with typing.

The key discovery from this research is the profound cognitive stimulation handwriting offers to individuals across all age groups. Notably, using a digital pen on a touchscreen activated more neural networks than typing on a keyboard, suggesting that the greater the brain’s connectivity during an activity, the more efficiently it operates. This suggests that the advantages linked to using digital pens could extend to the use of classic pens and paper as well. On the other hand, the monotonous act of pressing keys while typing did not offer the same level of cognitive stimulation.

Children who initially learn through tablets often struggle more with spelling and recognizing letters, probably due to missing out on the tactile experience of handwriting each letter. This observation likely sheds light on why children who learn to read and write on tablets frequently have difficulty distinguishing between letters that are mirror images of each other. The researchers advocate for incorporating handwriting lessons into early education. Crafting letters manually involves intricate fine motor skills that provide a beneficial challenge to the developing brain.

Nonetheless, the researchers aren’t advocating for a complete withdrawal from technology. They recommend a hybrid strategy, incorporating handwriting for taking notes during lectures to enhance learning, and using keyboards for longer writing assignments. This approach emphasizes the importance of modifying educational practices to benefit from both conventional handwriting and digital typing tools.

To view the original scientific study click below:
Handwriting but not typewriting leads to widespread brain connectivity: a high-density EEG study with implications for the classroom