Drawing and writing: An ALE meta-analysis of sensorimotor activations

Brain Cogn. 2015 Aug:98:15-26. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2015.05.004. Epub 2015 Jun 5.


Drawing and writing are the two major means of creating what are referred to as "images", namely visual patterns on flat surfaces. They share many sensorimotor processes related to visual guidance of hand movement, resulting in the formation of visual shapes associated with pictures and words. However, while the human capacity to draw is tens of thousands of years old, the capacity for writing is only a few thousand years old, and widespread literacy is quite recent. In order to compare the neural activations for drawing and writing, we conducted two activation likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analyses for these two bodies of neuroimaging literature. The results showed strong overlap in the activation profiles, especially in motor areas (motor cortex, frontal eye fields, supplementary motor area, cerebellum, putamen) and several parts of the posterior parietal cortex. A distinction was found in the left posterior parietal cortex, with drawing showing a preference for a ventral region and writing a dorsal region. These results demonstrate that drawing and writing employ the same basic sensorimotor networks but that some differences exist in parietal areas involved in spatial processing.

Keywords: ALE; Drawing; Exner’s area; VWFA; Writing.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Art*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Sensorimotor Cortex / physiology*
  • Writing*