In our digital age, laptops and smartphones have become appendages for students and professionals alike. But new research suggests we may want to take a break from all that typing.
A recent study from Norway found that the old-school art of handwriting engages parts of the brain that tapping on a keyboard does not. The intricate movements involved in handwriting activate more regions of the brain associated with learning than typing does.
Handwriting vs. Typing
A new study published in Frontiers in Psychology and led by Audrey van der Meer, a neuroscience researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, examined the differences between handwriting and typing. Ms. Van der Meer and her team analyzed the neural networks involved in both activities to uncover their respective impacts on brain connectivity.
“We show that when writing by hand, brain connectivity patterns are far more elaborate than when typewriting on a keyboard,” she said in a press statement. “Such widespread brain connectivity is known to be crucial for memory formation and for encoding new information and, therefore, is beneficial for learning.”
The researchers used high-density electroencephalograms (EEGs) to collect data from 36 university students. Participants were prompted to either write or type words displayed on a screen by pressing keys with one finger.
Results showed connectivity between different brain areas increased substantially when writing by hand. In contrast, typing did not produce a comparable boost in connectivity.
“Our main finding is that writing by hand is excellent brain stimulation for people of all ages,” Ms. Van der Meer told The Epoch Times. Writing on a touchscreen with a digital pen yielded more neural network activity versus typing on a keyboard, she added. “The more connections in the brain during a task, the more the brain is used to its full potential.”
Why Handwriting Remains Essential
The meticulous letter formation and precise movements of handwriting substantially boost the brain’s connectivity patterns involved in learning, according to Ms. Van der Meer. This implies that the benefits observed with digital pens may also apply to traditional pens and paper. In contrast, the repetitive key-tapping of typing was less mentally stimulating.
She pointed out this likely explains why children taught to read and write on tablets often struggle to differentiate between mirror-image letters. The researchers recommend that young children receive at least some handwriting instruction. “Forming letters by hand is a complex fine motor skill that challenges the young brain.”
Children first taught via tablets also tend to have poorer spelling and letter recognition, likely because they lack the motor experience of handwriting each letter, Ms. Van der Meer said.
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