Writing by hand is good for your brain

Handwriting stimulates complex brain connections essential in encoding new information and forming memories.

Thousands of people now speak to their smart devices to make their grocery lists. Students are more likely to type out notes in class than write them down. And we often type or dictate calendar reminders into our smartphones instead of writing them on a wall calendar. In short, people across the globe and in a wide variety of settings primarily use digital devices to record the things they want to remember.

It turns out, that may not be a good thing. A substantial body of evidence demonstrates that handwriting stimulates different and more complex brain connections that are essential in encoding new information and forming memories.

The most recent study supporting this idea was published last month in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

Researchers in Norway asked university students to write individual words either using a digital pen on a touchscreen or using a single finger to type all while measuring electrical activity in their brains using a high-density electroencephalogram (EEG).

They found that brain connectivity patterns were far more elaborate and widespread for participants who wrote by hand compared to those who typed. This suggests that the precisely controlled hand movements that occur when writing lead to spatial and temporal patterns in the brain that promote learning.

This study adds to a large body of previous research that finds handwriting activates the brain in ways that other forms of recording information do not.

But you don’t have to be a student to benefit from handwriting. A 2021 study by Japanese researchers found that participants who recorded calendar event information on paper calendars demonstrated more brain activity than subjects who recorded the same information onto a smartphone when they tried to remember details about the information later. In addition, the participants who wrote in their calendars recalled the information 25% faster than those who typed it into a smartphone.

In addition, earlier research demonstrates that handwriting is essential in children’s brain development. This study asked five-year-old, preliterate children to write, type, and trace letters while undergoing functional MRI scanning. The students who wrote by hand were the only ones who demonstrated brain activity in a circuit of the brain used in learning to read.

The take-home message: If you need to remember something, write it down! There is clear evidence that the act of writing helps us to learn and remember.

Source: Psychology Today