J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 78:5-13 doi:10.1136/jnnp.2006.094870
  • Review

Mirror writing: neurological reflections on an unusual phenomenon

  1. G D Schott
  1. Correspondence to:
 National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery
 Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK;geoffrey.schott{at}
  • Received 4 April 2006
  • Accepted 27 August 2006
  • Revised 18 June 2006
  • Published Online First 8 September 2006


Mirror writing is an unusual script, in which the writing runs in the opposite direction to normal, with individual letters reversed, so that it is most easily read using a mirror. This writing is seen in healthy individuals; it is also associated with various focal lesions that most commonly involve the left hemisphere, as well as with certain diffuse cerebral disorders. Mirror writing is nearly always undertaken with the left hand, and left-handers, and those whose languages are written leftwards, have an unusual facility for this writing. Concerning possible underlying processes, the implications of using the left hand when writing are considered first. Motor pathways that may be important, the surrogate model of bimanual mirror movements and the contribution of the corpus callosum are then discussed. The reasons why left-handed writing is mirrored, and the factors that tend to inhibit mirroring, are outlined. After commenting on mirrored motor and visual engrams, the possibility that the right hemisphere may play an important part is entertained, and Leonardo da Vinci’s unique, habitual mirror writing proves to be of unexpected relevance. Further investigations, ranging from epidemiological to functional imaging studies, may provide valuable insights into mirror writing.


  • Published Online First August

  • Competing interests: None.

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