April 17, 2024
Writing by Hand Enhances Brain Connectivity More than Typing, Study Finds

Writing by Hand Enhances Brain Connectivity More than Typing, Study Finds

In an era where digital devices are increasingly replacing pen and paper, the act of writing by hand is becoming rarer, especially in educational settings. However, research now suggests that the process of handwriting may have a greater impact on brain connectivity compared to typing on a keyboard. While typing may be faster, handwriting has been found to improve spelling accuracy and memory recall.

To delve deeper into the neural networks involved in both modes of writing, researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology conducted a study to understand the effect of forming letters by hand on brain connectivity.

The study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, found that when writing by hand, the patterns of brain connectivity were significantly more intricate compared to typing on a keyboard. According to Prof Audrey van der Meer, a brain researcher and co-author of the study, this widespread connectivity is crucial for memory formation and encoding new information, thus making it beneficial for learning.

The researchers collected EEG data from 36 university students who were instructed to either write or type words that appeared on a screen. When writing, the participants used a digital pen on a touchscreen, while typing involved using a single finger on a keyboard. High-density EEGs were recorded for five seconds during each prompt.

The results revealed that connectivity between different brain regions increased during handwriting but not during typing. Van der Meer explains that the findings indicate that the visual and movement information obtained through hand movements when using a pen contributes extensively to the brain’s connectivity patterns that facilitate learning. The researchers also suggest that the same benefits can be expected when using a real pen on paper, rather than a digital alternative.

Furthermore, van der Meer highlights that the careful formation of letters during handwriting and the use of various senses contribute to the differences in brain activity. On the other hand, the repetitive movement of hitting a key with the same finger during typing is less stimulating for the brain. This may explain why children who exclusively learn to write and read on tablets struggle to differentiate between mirror-image letters, such as ‘b’ and ‘d,’ as they lack the physical experience of producing those letters.

Based on these findings, the researchers emphasize the importance of allowing students to write with pens instead of relying solely on typing during class. They suggest implementing guidelines to ensure that students receive a minimum amount of handwriting instruction. For instance, many US states have reintroduced cursive writing training at the beginning of the school year.

However, the researchers also acknowledge the importance of keeping up with technological advancements. They caution that different circumstances may call for different modes of writing, and it is necessary to be aware of which method offers more advantages in each situation.

van der Meer concludes by stating that there is evidence supporting the notion that students learn and remember better when taking handwritten notes during lectures. Conversely, using a computer with a keyboard may be more practical when writing lengthy texts or essays. It is crucial to strike a balance between traditional and digital writing methods in order to optimize learning outcomes.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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