The effects of handwriting experience on functional brain development in pre-literate children

Trends Neurosci Educ. 2012 Dec;1(1):32-42. doi: 10.1016/j.tine.2012.08.001.


In an age of increasing technology, the possibility that typing on a keyboard will replace handwriting raises questions about the future usefulness of handwriting skills. Here we present evidence that brain activation during letter perception is influenced in different, important ways by previous handwriting of letters versus previous typing or tracing of those same letters. Preliterate, five-year old children printed, typed, or traced letters and shapes, then were shown images of these stimuli while undergoing functional MRI scanning. A previously documented "reading circuit" was recruited during letter perception only after handwriting-not after typing or tracing experience. These findings demonstrate that handwriting is important for the early recruitment in letter processing of brain regions known to underlie successful reading. Handwriting therefore may facilitate reading acquisition in young children.

Keywords: Brain; Children; Development; Reading; Writing; fMRI.