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How Writing By Hand Boosts Our Learning Abilities

Why it may be a good idea to revive the forgotten art of handwriting.

Naresh Kumar
Naresh Kumar on October 14, 2010.

Recent research suggests that writing by hand helps to improve our cognitive abilities and keep our minds sharp. Besides the obvious benefit of aiding motor-skill development in kids, several studies have come out that show how the oft-forgotten art of handwriting improves our thought process and learning ability. The reason for it, as researchers say, is that writing out the letters and alphabets by hand engages our brain and makes it work a little harder than when simply typing them out on a computer, thus keeping our minds sharp.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Recent research illustrates how writing by hand engages the brain in learning. During one study at Indiana University published this year, researchers invited children to man a “spaceship,” actually an MRI machine using a specialized scan called “functional” MRI that spots neural activity in the brain. The kids were shown letters before and after receiving different letter-learning instruction. In children who had practiced printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and “adult-like” than in those who had simply looked at letters.

Adults may benefit similarly when learning a new graphically different language, such as Mandarin, or symbol systems for mathematics, music and chemistry, Dr. James says. For instance, in a 2008 study in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, adults were asked to distinguish between new characters and a mirror image of them after producing the characters using pen-and-paper writing and a computer keyboard. The result: For those writing by hand, there was stronger and longer-lasting recognition of the characters’ proper orientation, suggesting that the specific movements memorized when learning how to write aided the visual identification of graphic shapes.

Wall Street Journal: “How Handwriting Trains the Brain”

[via Life Hacker]

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