Handwriting to help the brain

Handwriting with Nibbus Maximus, or the “Big Pen”

Let’s hear it for handwriting.  If yours is as difficult to decipher as mine this is not a cheer you’ll take up. However, various studies show that substituting a pen in hand for the computer keyboard is good for our brains.  Wendy Bounds, Wall Street Journal, citing research done at Indiana University, reports that “Writing by hand engages the brain in learning.” And the benefits may extend well past the years when children are just learning to make letter shapes. Bounds says that some physicians are suggesting that Baby Boomers, who wish to keep their brains sharp, should consider slipping away from the computer from time to time and reverting to pen and paper.

Bounds also reports that an educational psychologist from the University of Washington learned from her study that “in grades two, four and six children wrote more words, faster and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard.”

For adults, it’s not to late to return to the old-fashioned way of writing. Another scientist at Duke University said, “As more people lose writing skills and migrate to the computer, retraining people in handwriting skills could be a useful cognitive exercise.”

I took these reports to heart today and drafted this blog by hand.  I enjoyed writing this way, but later when I tried to read my notes I realized that when I go back to add something, I insert tiny words into tiny margins that look like smudges several hours later.

One scientist quoted suggested several “apps” appropriate for different age groups that could help handwriting, though improving mine may be an impossible task since note-taking in college turned it from mildly unrecognizable to indistinguishable from alphabet soup. I decided, however, to give the WritePad app a try, since it allows you to “take notes in your own handwriting” and “improves overall handwriting recognition quality.”  I hope this doesn’t mean that instead of improving handwriting, my iPad learns to recognize the unintelligible scrawl it’s seeing on the screen.

About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness. Also, I'm on the third draft of my second novel since retirement.
This entry was posted in aging, inspiration, writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Handwriting to help the brain

  1. Wayne E. says:

    Thank you soooo much for posting this! I write by hand in my journals (yes, plural) every single day. I even scribble notes on napkins when I’m at a restaurant with my family. And, I’m ashamed to say it, I scribble notes on my church program during service. I write by hand to work out my thoughts, you know? It’s good to find some scientific research to back what I do naturally. Now, when I’m in the cafe with my friends and they’re using their iPads, I can tell them about YOUR post!!

    • stillalife says:

      Wayne, I have started to try this myself. The research convinced me, too. I’m writing a novel and I don’t want to write it all by hand and then re-input it, but I’m using pen and a journal to map out scenes. It’s working as far as giving me a big boost when it comes to writing the scene. Ann

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s