​Researchers at the University of Washington have designed a computer-interfaced drawing pad that helps scientists see inside the brains of children with learning disabilities while they read and write in real time.

The customized pen and pad allow researchers to record handwriting during fMRI scans in order to assess behavior and brain function at the same time.

Fiber-Optic Pen Helps See the Brains of Dyslexic Children

Todd Richards demonstrates the pen and pad device while inside the fMRI. Image source: ScienceDaily


The device records every aspect of handwriting including stroke order, speed, hesitations, and liftoffs. Understanding how these physical patterns correlate with a child’s brain patterns can help scientists understand the neural connections involved.

​The reason why this device is so amazing is that it cost less than $100 and was created using objects that can typically already be found in a lab—a pen, fiber optics, a wooden pad, and printed paper.

​Currently, researchers are using the device in a study involving 11- and 14-year-olds with either dyslexia or dysgraphia. The researchers are examining the neural pathways that connect language and hand motion.

​To read more about this device, visit ScienceDaily.