If you did this activity as a kid, your brain is in better shape

Break out that old moleskin and ballpoint pen. New research conducted by Professor Audrey van der Meer at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology proves the pen is mightier than the iPad when it comes down to retaining new information.

Let’s take a closer look at how putting pen to paper improves cognitive functions and “gives the brain more hooks to hang memories on” based on research conducted by Van der Meer and her colleagues — make sure to takes notes.

Boosting your brainpower

Boosting brainpower can be done in myriad ways. Whether you adjust your diet, meditate, or include exercise in your daily routine to maximize neural productivity, you can always physically write down that grocery list to improve memory and learning.

“When you write your shopping list or lecture notes by hand, you simply remember the content better afterward,” Van der Meer relays.

A study initially taken on by Van der Meer and researchers at NUOST back in 2017 yielded even better results in this new case study conducted this year.

Breaking down the study

Van der Meer and her colleagues at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology took a sample size of 12 young adults and 12 children.

Researchers hooked these 24 participants up to an EEG machine with a hood containing over 250 electrodes to register brain wave activity. When asked to physically take notes researchers realized much higher “brain activity” recorded on the EEG compared to significantly less activity when the group used a keyboard to dictate what they learned.

Deborah Weatherspoon Ph.D. featured recently in Healthline, goes into further detail of what an EEG entails.

“An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a test used to evaluate the electrical activity in the brain. Brain cells communicate with each other through electrical impulses. An EEG can be used to help detect potential problems associated with this activity. An EEG tracks and records brain wave patterns.”

What does this mean for remote learning?

Research warns us of the limiting effects an exclusively digital culture surrounding remote learning could potentially have.

“A lot of senses are activated by pressing the pen on paper, seeing the letters you write and hearing the sound you make while writing. These sensory experiences create contact between different parts of the brain and open the brain up for learning. We both learn better and remember better.”

With most schools and universities going remote over Coronavirus concerns, it’s imperative students still engage in physically putting their thoughts down on paper.

Van der Meer has this to say on the brain matter—pun intended—“If you use a keyboard, you use the same movement for each letter. Writing by hand requires control of your fine motor skills and senses. It’s important to put the brain in a learning state as often as possible. I would use a keyboard to write an essay, but I’d take notes by hand during a lecture.”

It is imperative to stimulate the senses, especially when teaching young children. The benefit you got from handwriting, as a child, is visible.

It opens up neural passageways in the brain that make way for more space to create new memories and remember the notes you took in that lecture last week better than if you were to take them on a tablet in class.

What we can learn from this

While digital enhancements and teaching methods have broken down barriers in how we teach our kids, it’s important to engage in the old tradition of buying fresh new notebooks and multi-colored pens to take note of any new information you’re taking in.

For the brain to retain its plasticity and bandwidth for taking in and retaining new knowledge we must use our hands and stimulate all of our senses to get the most out of our grey matter.

Try heading outside, while the weather still permits, and indulging your sensory impulses by writing notes. You’ll be glad you did, later.