As technology advances, the traditional method of taking down notes with pen and paper is slowly losing popularity. While typing on a keyboard has become a faster and more convenient alternative, could there be a downside? Researchers have now made an interesting find: Writing by hand may boost brain connectivity compared to typing on a keyboard.

"We show that when writing by hand, brain connectivity patterns are far more elaborate than when typewriting on a keyboard. Such widespread brain connectivity is known to be crucial for memory formation and for encoding new information and, therefore, is beneficial for learning," said Professor Audrey van der Meer, co-author of the study whose findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

To understand the effect on brain connectivity, researchers from Norway examined electroencephalogram (EEG) data from 36 university students who were repeatedly prompted to either write or type a word that appeared on a screen.

During the writing phase, they were given digital pens that allowed them to write in cursive directly on a touchscreen. While typing, the participants were asked to use a single finger to press keys on a keyboard.

The researchers noted that the connectivity of different brain regions increased when participants wrote by hand but not when they typed on a keyboard.

"Our findings suggest that the spatiotemporal pattern from visual and proprioceptive information obtained through precisely controlled hand movements when using a pen, contributes extensively to the brain's connectivity patterns that promote learning. We urge that children, from an early age, must be exposed to handwriting activities in school to establish the neuronal connectivity patterns that provide the brain with optimal conditions for learning," the researchers wrote.

Although the findings were made based on testing the participants while writing with digital pens, the researchers said they expect the same when using a real pen on paper. Since the movement of the hand while writing is behind the improved brain activity, writing in print is also expected to have similar benefits to cursive writing.

On the other hand, the simple movement of hitting a key with the same finger over and over while typing was found to be less stimulating for the brain. "This also explains why children who have learned to write and read on a tablet, can have difficulty differentiating between letters that are mirror images of each other, such as 'b' and 'd.' They literally haven't felt with their bodies what it feels like to produce those letters," van der Meer said.