Handwriting boosts brain connectivity more than typing

In an era dominated by digital devices, the act of writing by hand is slowly fading away from schools and universities. However, a groundbreaking study conducted by Norwegian researchers has revealed that writing by hand leads to higher brain connectivity compared to typing on a keyboard. The findings emphasize the importance of exposing students to handwriting activities and the impact it can have on their learning abilities.

The study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, involved 36 university students who were prompted to either write or type a given word displayed on a screen. The researchers collected high-density EEG data to measure brain activity during the tasks. Astonishingly, the connectivity of different brain regions increased significantly when participants wrote by hand, but not when they typed. This intricate brain connectivity is known to play a vital role in memory formation and encoding new information, thus enhancing learning.

Professor Audrey van der Meer, a brain researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and co-author of the study, explained that the careful formation of letters during handwriting, accompanied by the use of multiple senses, contributes extensively to the brain’s connectivity patterns. The movement of the fingers when writing by hand stimulates the brain in ways that typing cannot replicate. This may explain why children who primarily learn to write and read on tablets struggle to differentiate between mirror-image letters such as ‘b’ and ‘d’.

While the study utilized digital pens for handwriting, the researchers believe that the results would be similar with traditional pen and paper. The implications are clear: handwriting, whether in print or cursive, offers unique benefits for learning and memory recall.

The researchers argue that students should be given more opportunities to use pens instead of relying solely on keyboards during classes. They propose guidelines to ensure that students receive a minimum amount of handwriting instruction, with many US states already reintroducing cursive writing training. However, they also acknowledge the importance of keeping pace with technological advancements. While handwritten lecture notes have shown to aid learning and retention, typing on a computer may be more practical for longer texts or essays.