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Scientifically proven: crochet has positive effects on your brain!

The scientific study “Crochet … a little hook to improve attention?” written by Davide Rossi Sebastiano et al found these highlights of their study:

  • Crocheting positively affects attention, improving alerting and orienting

  • Crocheting speeds up the information exchange between different brain areas

  • Crocheting and meditation promote different effects on the attentional networks

It was found that crochet is associated with an increase in the alerting and the orienting networks even after a brief, single work session and that this behavioural effect seems to have a counterpart in the modification seen in the global functional connectivity of the brain, where an increased speed of the information exchange between different brain areas have been seen.

The press conference is available here, mainly in Italian:

Betsan Corkhill’s short story of Therapeutic Knitting is available here:

Please read Dr. Alberto Costa's correspondence if you'd like to learn more about how this study took place:

This beautiful story (begins a few years ago when an English (or rather Welsh, as she herself is keen to point out) physiotherapist, Mrs Betsan Corkhill of Bath, launched the proposal, in the medical-scientific field, to use the term "therapeutic knitting" to indicate the beneficial (therapeutic) effects of knitting, both with needles and crochet.

In her clinical practice she had observed, and then described in several publications, that subjects accustomed to knitting, especially women of course, had "an advantage" compared to other patients, in a number of ways, greater calm, less anxiety, even less pain in the post-operative period. Furthermore, a greater reserve of "positivity", and therefore of optimism, deriving from the creative aspect of "knitting". You can read more about Betsan Corkhill's work on her website:

I came across Corkhill's work almost by chance, reading an article about her in a non-scientific journal, and immediately got in touch. Her ideas fit perfectly with what I had always observed in my work as a breast cancer surgeon, dedicated for obvious reasons to female patients: I too had often been struck by the peculiar attitude towards illness and hospitalization that characterized those knits and I had found this fact an ideal suggestion for us who were trying to give a future to wool, now almost abandoned by the textile and clothing industry.

I still remember very well the first "skype" with Betsan, her friendliness, the understanding that was immediately created between the two of us. He sent me all the data from his survey on knitting, a questionnaire distributed to hundreds of people in dozens of different countries, proving the main assumption of his theory: "knitting" is good for mind, perhaps as much as yoga and meditation. With the added result of a beautiful scarf, or a blanket.

And it was precisely when we were talking about covers, when we named our first pink cover “Luisella” in memory of the generous Milanese donor, Luisa Mortara Ottolenghi, that I told her family about the meeting with Betsan and her dream of being able to verify with scientific research the thesis of the beneficial effect of knitting. The decision to finance this research came within a few minutes from Raffaella, Luisa's daughter, who gave us a financial contribution sufficient to cover all the expenses for the study.

I went with Betsan to the prestigious neurological study center of the University of Reading, in London and everything seemed to go smoothly: we would study 40 volunteer subjects with an EEG (electroencephalogram) before and after twenty minutes of knitting, thus measuring directly and precisely the effect on brain waves.

When we were about to start, damn Covid came and the study was suspended for at least a year. The anti-epidemic regulations in England were very different from the rest of Europe and when we were about to resign ourselves to giving up I thought of a schoolmate who now worked at the legendary Besta Institute in Mila, Italy. I called him, he fell in love with the project, and now the results can finally be communicated.

The team led by Dr. Davide Rossi Sebastiano studied 40 volunteers who were friends of Gomitolorosa and were willing to have their brains "read", as one of them said, before and after a 20-minute crochet session. The experiment was also repeated on a group of "controls", i.e. on subjects who do not habitually practice knitting.

This research have contributed to scientifically demonstrating the positive impact of knitting on the mind and in particular on attention.


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