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Handwriting provides window into health, new documentary reveals

Posted on 25 January 2017

A new online documentary investigating how the study of handwriting could help improve the lives of people with movement disorders has been launched by a University of York historian, currently working in an interdisciplinary role in the Department of Electronics.

Dr Deborah Thorpe helped identify the type of tremor a prolific 13th century scribe.

‘Tremulous Hands’ explores how Dr Deborah Thorpe helped identify the type of tremor a prolific 13th century scribe lived with after carrying out forensic analysis of his distinctive handwriting, combined with insight into the handwriting from specialists in movement disorders from Electronics and Neurology.;fmt=37

In the documentary, Dr Thorpe reveals how the study was carried out and why this type of historical work could help benefit the diagnosis of modern-day neurological disorders.

Teaming up with Dr Stephen Smith of the Department of Electronics and Dr Jane Alty of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Dr Thorpe charted the progress of the monk’s condition through his writing and compared it to present handwriting from modern-day individuals with different conditions.

Dr Thorpe and Dr Smith are now taking this research forward by combining digital micro sensors with quills and parchment, to capture the hand movements of calligraphers replicating medieval style writing.

By recovering the dynamic features of historical handwriting, such as the speed and flow of writing, they hope to be able to give more accurate diagnoses for medieval tremor conditions.

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