New study suggests handwriting engages the brain more than typing

By Alexandra Mae Jones for 

TORONTO — A new study out of Norway suggests that handwriting and drawing engages the brain far more than typing on a keyboard, after measuring the brain activity of children and young adults performing these tasks.

The research, published this past summer in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, looked at a small sample size of twelve children and twelve young adults. The authors had studied the topic before in 2017 by looking at the brain activity of 20 students, but this new study is the first to include children.

Audrey van der Meer, a neuroscientist and professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), said in an October press release that due to an increased reliance on the digital sphere, “we risk having one or more generations lose the ability to write by hand.

“Our research and that of others show that this would be a very unfortunate consequence” of increased digital activity, she added.

The 12 children were all in Grade 7 at a school in Trondheim, where they were used to cursive writing and drawing. The young adults who participated in the study were recruited from the NTNU campus, with the average age of roughly 24.

Each person was studied individually for around 45 minutes.

To measure participant’s brain activity, researchers used an EEG Geodesic Sensor Net. Although at a glance, it looks like a pebbly hood pulled over the head, it is actually 256 metal sensors, or electrodes, which are placed across the skull to record changes in electrical activity within the brain as it is stimulated by tasks.

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