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Long-term Chinese calligraphic handwriting reshapes the posterior cingulate cortex: A VBM study


As a special kind of handwriting with a brush, Chinese calligraphic handwriting (CCH) requires a large amount of practice with high levels of concentration and emotion regulation. Previous studies have showed that long-term CCH training has positive effects physically (induced by handwriting activities) and psychologically (induced by the state of relaxation and concentration), the latter of which is similar to the effects of meditation. The aim of this study was to investigate the long-term CCH training effect on anxiety and attention, as well as brain structure. Participants were 32 individuals who had at least five years of CCH experience and 44 controls. Results showed that CCH training benefited individuals' selective and divided attention but did not decrease their anxiety level. Moreover, the VBM analysis showed that long-term CCH training was mainly associated with smaller grey matter volumes (GMV) in the right precuneus/posterior cingulate cortex (PCC). No brain areas showed larger GMV in the CCH group than the control group. Using two sets of regions of interest (ROIs), one related to meditation and the other to handwriting, ROI analysis showed significant differences between the CCH and the control group only at the meditation-related ROIs, not at the handwriting-related ROIs. Finally, for the whole sample, the GMV of both the whole brain and the PCC were negatively correlated with selective attention and divided attention. The present study was cross-sectional and had a relatively small sample size, but its results suggested that CCH training might benefit attention and influence particular brain structure through mental processes such as meditation.

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