James Arruda Henry has lived a long life. He managed to live so long with a literary education nowhere beyond the third grade. When Henry turned 98 years old, he published In a Fisherman’s Language (2011), a story about his former life as a humble fisherman.
For six years, he enhanced his reading and writing skills to compose his first book. While reading is an essential factor in his accomplishment, how much has writing contributed to Henry’s development?
Many studies have reported writing exercises the mind like consistent bodybuilding strengthens muscles. The benefits include improved memory, enhanced mood, and decreased risk of Alzheimer’s.
Is Handwriting Better for Your Brain?
Remember pen pals? When was the last time you wrote a physical letter to a friend? Nowadays, people are more likely to shoot a text or e-mail than a handwritten note.
Online stationer Docmail reported 1 in 3 people out of a survey of 2,000 haven’t written anything in the past six months. One study revealed college students who wrote down their notes on paper instead of typing them on their laptops received higher test grades. Another reported students between the second and sixth grades wrote better essays than typing them. Why?
Martin Lotze & The Writer’s Brain
Researcher Martin Lotze has studied the brain activities of artists and musicians. The next group he wanted to explore were writers. First, he scanned a group of novice writers’ brains when they copied text. Not much happened.
Next, he directed the writers to create their own short stories. Lotze noticed the occipital lobe and the hippocampus lit up during the creative exercise. The occipital lobe is associated with visualization. The hippocampus stores all collected information.
Lotze took his study to the University of Hildesheim, where he met expert writers. During the tests, Lotze and his team discovered writing activated their caudate nucleus and other parts of the brain associated with speech. This brain structure automates new habits. The caudate nucleus wasn’t active in the novice writers’ scans.
Writing can be difficult if not used daily. Take the most prolific, bestselling writers with all the books they’ve written. Writing for hours in a day has become a natural process for them.
While people praised Lotze’s brain studies, some had conflicting views. Harvard psychologist
Steven Pinker believes Lotze’s research has missed some key elements of writing and the brain.
Instead of seeing how writing works between novice and professional writers, Pinker suggests studying brain activities between fiction and non-fiction writing. So far, there have been no reported tests.
Writing by hand does make a difference with your brain. It can strengthen many brain components, including the caudate nucleus. Your memory increases the more you write over time. Plus, it can fight off unwanted physical and mental conditions.
While technology is not the bane of all evil, it doesn’t hurt to pick up a pen and paper once in a while. Your brain will love you for it.
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