Drawing is better than writing for memory retention

Older adults who take up drawing could enhance their memory.


Drawing and painting are fundamental activities in children’s development, as kids express themselves and their emotions through drawing and coloring in. A new study by Waterloo scientists even has offered a new benefit of drawing.

The study suggests that older adults who take up drawing could enhance their memory. The drawing could help retain new information than writing notes, visualization exercises or passively looking at images.

Melissa Meade, a Ph.D. candidate in cognitive neuroscience at Waterloo, said, “We found that drawing enhanced memory in older adults more than other known study techniques. We’re really encouraged by these results and are looking into ways that it can be used to help people with dementia, who experience rapid declines in memory and language function.”

During the study, scientists involved young people and older adults and asked them for a variety of memory-encoding techniques. They then asked them to recall.

The researchers believe that drawing led to better memory when compared with other study techniques because it incorporated multiple ways of representing the information–visual, spatial, verbal, semantic, and motoric.

Scientists compared different types of memory techniques in aiding the retention of a set of words in a group of undergraduate students and a group of senior citizens. Members would either encode each word by composing it out, illustrating it, or by posting physical credits identified with everything.

Later on, in the wake of playing out each task, memory was evaluated. The two gatherings indicated better retention when they utilized drawing instead of writing to encode the new data, and this impact was particularly expansive in older adults.

Meade said, “Retention of new information typically declines as people age due to deterioration of critical brain structures involved in memory such as the hippocampus and frontal lobes. In contrast, we know that visuospatial processing regions of the brain, involved in representing images and pictures, are mostly intact in normal aging and in dementia.”

“We think that drawing is particularly relevant for people with dementia because it makes better use of brain regions that are still preserved and could help people experiencing cognitive impairment with memory function. Our findings have exciting implications for therapeutic interventions to help dementia patients hold on to valuable episodic memories throughout the progression of their disease.”

The study appears in Experimental Aging and Research.