Handwriting but not typewriting leads to widespread brain connectivity: a high-density EEG study with implications for the classroom

Author: F R Ruud Van der Weel1, Audrey L H Van der Meer1
Affiliation: <sup>1</sup> Developmental Neuroscience Laboratory, Department of Psychology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway.
Conference/Journal: Front Psychol
Date published: 2024 Jan 26
Other: Volume ID: 14 , Pages: 1219945 , Special Notes: doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1219945. , Word Count: 259

As traditional handwriting is progressively being replaced by digital devices, it is essential to investigate the implications for the human brain. Brain electrical activity was recorded in 36 university students as they were handwriting visually presented words using a digital pen and typewriting the words on a keyboard. Connectivity analyses were performed on EEG data recorded with a 256-channel sensor array. When writing by hand, brain connectivity patterns were far more elaborate than when typewriting on a keyboard, as shown by widespread theta/alpha connectivity coherence patterns between network hubs and nodes in parietal and central brain regions. Existing literature indicates that connectivity patterns in these brain areas and at such frequencies are crucial for memory formation and for encoding new information and, therefore, are beneficial for learning. Our findings suggest that the spatiotemporal pattern from visual and proprioceptive information obtained through the precisely controlled hand movements when using a pen, contribute extensively to the brain's connectivity patterns that promote learning. We urge that children, from an early age, must be exposed to handwriting activities in school to establish the neuronal connectivity patterns that provide the brain with optimal conditions for learning. Although it is vital to maintain handwriting practice at school, it is also important to keep up with continuously developing technological advances. Therefore, both teachers and students should be aware of which practice has the best learning effect in what context, for example when taking lecture notes or when writing an essay.

Keywords: brain connectivity (coherence); handwriting; high-density EEG; typewriting; young adults (18–29 years).

PMID: 38343894 PMCID: PMC10853352 DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1219945