Do the ‘Write’ Thing (for Your Brain)
photo: Elin Iversen/NTNU

Do the ‘Write’ Thing (for Your Brain)

Maria Hawranek
time 10 minutes

Do our brains work differently when we’re writing by hand as opposed to when we’re typing? Why do our brains enjoy physical activity and challenges so much? Maria Hawranek discusses these questions with Audrey van der Meer, a Norwegian neuropsychologist and neurobiologist.

Although they have made lunar landings, the internet, and modern neurological research possible, human brains thrive best under conditions that reflect the lives of our grandparents. Old-fashioned customs like walking, writing in a notebook (or tracing letters in the sand) are great for our brains. What’s more, scientific evidence suggests that these simple activities make us smarter.

Maria Hawranek: You’ve been studying brain development of fetuses, newborns, and infants for a number of years now. How did you become interested in the mechanisms of handwriting in young adults?

Audrey van der Meer: In order to be able to study newborns, we need special equipment— several  electrodes sewn together in a net that you put on the subject’s head in one swift movement. That’s the only way—the old traditional EEG system would require literally gluing electrodes one by one to the baby’s scalp, and scraping their scalp a little to ensure clear contact between the surface of the skin and the electrodes or sensors. Before this special mesh was created, recording brain signals in newborns and infants was practically impossible. Of course, these nets are very expensive. We received this sizable Norwegian grant to purchase EEG nets in all sizes, from those fitting newborns to those suitable for adults. When the media reported this, curious people started writing to us, thinking that we could read people’s minds with the devices. We had to explain that it’s not that simple. These experiments need meticulous planning; we first need to decide what stimulus we want to present to the participant. i.e., what image or sound we will show them.

Eventually, the employees of the European branch o


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On the Enjoyment of Work
Vincent van Gogh, "Noon - Rest from work (according to Millet)", 1890; public domain
Dreams and Visions

On the Enjoyment of Work

Paulina Wilk

We speak of work mainly as a threat. To our rights (bad, exploitative employers) and our well-being (Poles work their fingers to the bone). Or the reverse: we’re afraid to lose it and fear that Artificial Intelligence is taking our jobs. But maybe, for a change, let’s talk about how work gives our life value and meaning. And that many of us like what we do. 

Małgosia is really good at what she does. She can cure bed sores and amuse and liven up pensioners. They stroll arm-in-arm with her, without walkers or wheelchairs, tearing their soupy gaze from the television—they chat and smile. But the work is hard. Twelve-hour shifts, with no full-time contract. Short vacations because when one caretaker rests, the other works twice as hard. There are few takers for this job, which is so necessary in an aging society, yet is poorly remunerated. It is mainly handled by older women, with plenty of emotional fortitude, but sometimes lacking the physical strength to match. 

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