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Writing by hand may be better for your brain than typing

Want to boost brain connectivity? Then write by hand instead of typing on a keyboard.

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Want to boost brain connectivity? Then write by hand instead of typing on a keyboard, suggests a recent study.

Using a keyboard is the norm these days, whether on a computer or a hand-held device. But are we losing a crucial ability in doing so, or indeed a whole set of abilities? We may well be, suggests recent neuropsychological research.

Writing by hand, it has been found, improves spelling accuracy, and memory recall.

Neuropsychologist Audrey van der Meer has been studying the underlying neural networks involved in both modes of writing.

Her results show that the process of forming letters by hand results in greater brain connectivity.

“We have been able to show that when writing by hand, brain connectivity patterns are far more elaborate than when typewriting on a keyboard,” said Professor Audrey van der Meer, of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

“Such widespread brain connectivity is known to be crucial for memory formation and for encoding new information and, therefore, is beneficial for learning,” Prof. van der Meer said.

In the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, the team collected EEG data from 36 university students who were repeatedly prompted to either write or type a word that appeared on a screen.

When writing, they used a digital pen to write in cursive directly on a touchscreen. When typing, they used a single finger to press keys on a keyboard.

High-density EEGs, which measure electrical activity in the brain using 256 small sensors sewn in a net and placed over the head, were recorded for five seconds for every prompt.

The connectivity between different brain regions increased when participants wrote by hand, but not when they typed.

Since it is the movement of the fingers when forming letters that promotes brain connectivity, writing in print, by using a finger or a stylus, is also expected to have similar benefits for learning as cursive writing by hand, the researcher said.

On the contrary, and perhaps mor significantly, the simple movement of hitting a key with the same finger repeatedly, is less stimulating for the brain.

“This also explains why children who have learned to write and read on a tablet, can have difficulty differentiating between letters that are mirror images of each other, such as ‘b’ and ‘d.’ They literally haven’t felt with their bodies what it feels like to produce those letters,” van der Meer said.

The study has significant implications not only for parents and teachers with regard to those they are educating, but also for adults in the real world who have grown used to writing without the use of a real pen.

READ MORE: Writing or typing?

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