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Article Title

METHODOLOGY OF THE BIOMECHANICAL AND COGNITIVE EFFECTS OF TABLET DESKS ON UNIVERSITY STUDENTS

Abstract

K. Ford, J. Danahy, N. Lerch, T. Lindsey, R. McCulloch

Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA

Right-handed tablet (RHT) desks are prevalent across university campuses and consist of a small table that only offers support for the right arm. Approximately ten percent of the world’s population is left-handed, yet little research has been conducted to understand how RHT desks may impact left-handed university students. PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to develop a methodology for examining the extent to which different desk types can influence cognition, muscle activation, legibility and handwriting speed of left-handed university students. METHODS: Left-handed participants and right-handed controls completed speed tests and took notes and quizzes on an art history video in two desk types: flat-top tables and RHT desks. Electromyography data was collected and normalized to a participant’s maximum voluntary contraction for four muscles associated with handwriting: upper trapezius (UT), anterior deltoid (AD), flexor carpi radialis (FCR) and extensor digitorum (ED). From speed tests, legibility (% of legible characters) and rate (letters/ minute) were determined using a standardized method for assessing handwriting. Cognition (% of correct answers) was assessed with quizzes on the videos at each desk style. Data was analyzed using independent and paired sample t-tests. RESULTS: Increases in UT activation were detected for left-handed participants in a RHT desk. No differences were detected for the AD, FCR and ED between desk styles. Averaging legibility across multiple raters revealed differences in interpretation, while quizzes including true/false and multiple-choice questions were effective in assessing cognition. CONCLUSION: This approach detected distinct differences in muscle recruitment of left-handed students at different desk types. This methodology warrants a full-scale study, as it successfully formalized a multi-pronged approach to evaluate legibility, speed, muscle activation and cognition, while modeling a university classroom.

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