Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Fast and accurate visual recognition of single characters is crucial for efficient reading. We explored the possible contribution of writing memory to character recognition processes. We evaluated the ability of adults to discriminate new characters from their mirror images after being taught how to produce the characters either by traditional pen-and-paper writing or with a computer keyboard. After training, we found stronger and longer lasting (several weeks) facilitation in recognizing the orientation of characters that had been written by hand compared to those typed. Functional magnetic resonance imaging recordings indicated that the response mode during learning is associated with distinct pathways during recognition of graphic shapes. Greater activity related to handwriting learning and normal letter identification was observed in several brain regions known to be involved in the execution, imagery, and observation of actions, in particular, the left Broca's area and bilateral inferior parietal lobules. Taken together, these results provide strong arguments in favor of the view that the specific movements memorized when learning how to write participate in the visual recognition of graphic shapes and letters.