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Research has found that using pen and paper to remember is better than using touch pen and electronic screen

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A new study by a group of Japanese researchers shows that writing on paper can lead to greater brain activity and memory retention than writing on a tablet computer with a stylus, foreign media reported. The researchers hypothesized that richer spatial details written on paper could explain why it could enhance the coding of information in the brain.

For several years, researchers have been studying the differences in brain activity between writing and typing. Some cognitive scientists believe that the neural processes involved in writing basically involve more active activities in brain regions related to the encoding of new information. But is all the benefits of handwriting only due to the physical process of holding the pen to write? If so, wouldn’t using a stylus on an electronic tablet produce similar results?

It is reported that the latest research published in behavioral neuroscience aims to study whether there is a significant difference in brain activity or memory retention between handwritten information in paper notebook and input information with electronic pen in electronic tablet computer. The study recruited 48 young college students who were divided into three groups. Each subject was asked to read a fictional dialogue in which several students were discussing future academic issues, and then their task was to make a timetable for the next two months’ education work. One group recorded their schedule on paper, the other group used a tablet with a stylus, and the third group used a smartphone with a touch keyboard.

One hour after the initial task was completed, each participant answered a series of questions to test their memory of the plan and scanned in a functional MRI machine. This allowed researchers to measure brain activity in memory areas associated with language and vision.

The paper notebook group scored slightly higher on the memory test than the tablet and smartphone groups. However, in the study group, some brain regions were significantly more activated. Activities in the hippocampus, precuneus, visual cortex and other language related frontal regions showed that the memory retrieval mechanism was stronger in the paper group.

“The paper group has significant advantages in both accuracy and activation, suggesting that the use of paper notebooks facilitates the collection of rich coding information and / or real paper spatial information, and that this information may be used as effective retrieval clues, leading to higher activation in these specific areas,” the researchers concluded in the Research Report

Despite the small scale of the study, the researchers offer some reasons why writing on paper can be more effective in helping the brain store and then retrieve new information. The key factor seems to be the tactile and spatial nature of writing on paper.

This hypothesis suggests that our hippocampus is particularly good at integrating the content, place and time of new information. Therefore, compared with electronic devices, the material properties of paper provide more fixed clues for memory coding.

“In fact, paper is more advanced and useful than electronic documents because it contains more unique information and enhances memory,” said kuniyoshi Sakai, the paper’s corresponding author. Digital tools have uniform scrolling up and down, as well as standardized text and image sizes, just like web pages. But if you remember the paper physics textbook, you can close your eyes and imagine the photos on the left third and the notes you added in the space at the bottom

Although the results suggest that taking notes with old-fashioned pen and paper may be the best way to help the brain remember, this small study alone is by no means decisive. Perhaps the biggest question facing the new discovery is whether young people’s long-term use of electronic devices will affect the effect of paper notes.

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