Handwriting examination reveals more about the writer, than just the words on paper or how letters are formed.  A close examination of the actual line quality, can reveal information about the physical and mental health of the writer as well as writing habits unique to an individual writer.  This  factor is an important element when examining writing from a forensic perspective as well as with regards to psychological and physical health.

Of course there are external as well as the internal factors mentioned above,  to be considered when examining line quality.  These include, the type of pen used as different pens have different nibs and quality of ink; the paper which is used, the surface when writing, including rough, smooth, moving surfaces and the position of the writer.

How does handwriting reflect brain activity?

Handwriting is the result of complex cognitive and neuromuscular processes which have become ‘programmed’ in the brain.  Explained by (Schmidt et al, 197) in (Caligiuri and Mohammed, 2012, p37), ‘a motor program is a theoretical memory structure capable of transforming an abstract code into an action sequence.’  Caligiuri and Mohammed, (2012, p37), further explains that  handwriting is an ‘expression of highly adaptive learned programmed movement sequences.’

Since handwriting is the result of neuro-muscular processes resulting from motor programming, any traumatic event to the brain, will impact on the functioning of these various areas  (frontal lobes, motor cortex, parietal lobe), involved in fine motor coordination and consequently, the writing process.

Lesions in the brain resulting from, e.g., strokes, brain tumours, progressive neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, Essential Tremor, substance abuse, etc or psychological conditions such as schizophrenia, altzheimers, etc, all affect the line quality of writing in different ways.  To the naked eye, much information is hidden, but under magnification, the line quality reveals such elements as homogenous, amorphous and granulated strokes, extraneous features such as hiatus, resting spots, stroke tacking, tremulousness, jerkiness, and other striations which cannot be attributed to pen, paper and ink quality.

Of course such an examination requires the original handwriting specimens  as copies lose many of these vital unique features.

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The above illustrations show line quality under magnification.

What the line reveals is therefore important information for both the forensic handwriting examiner assessing potential fraud, and the handwriting analyst assessing personality and character.

Caligiuri , M.P. & Mohammed, L.A., 2012, The Neuroscience of Handwriting, CRC Press, Florida USA

Seiffer M., 2009, The Definitive Book of Handwriting Analysis, Franklin Lakes:  New Page Books