Writing by hand found to enrich brain connections more than typing on keyboard

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New Delhi: Students learn more and remember better when taking handwritten notes than using a keyboard as brain connectivity patterns were found to be far more elaborate while writing than typing on a keyboard, a new research has found.

Researchers said the findings suggested that the precisely controlled hand movements when writing with a pen helped obtain visual and movement information that contributed extensively to the brain’s connectivity patterns, known to be crucial for memory formation and learning.

“There is some evidence that students learn more and remember better when taking handwritten lecture notes, while using a computer with a keyboard may be more practical when writing a long text or essay,” said Audrey van der Meer, a brain researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and co-author of the study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

For the study, the researchers recorded the electrical activity of the brains of 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.

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

On the contrary, the researchers found that repeating the simple movement of hitting a key with the same finger was 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,” said van der Meer.

Even though the study participants used digital pens for handwriting, the researchers said the results are expected to be the same when using a real pen on paper.

“We have shown that the differences in brain activity are related to the careful forming of the letters when writing by hand while making more use of the senses,” explained van der Meer.

The findings demonstrated the need to give students an opportunity to use pens, rather than having them type during class, they said.

Guidelines to ensure that students receive at least a minimum of handwriting instruction could be an adequate step, they said.

However, the team also cautioned that it was important to keep up with continuously developing technological advances, which they said included an awareness of which way of writing – handwriting or typing – was advantageous under what kind of circumstances.

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