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Use fists to boost memory

A study showed that the key to hanging on to and recalling memories may be right in your own two hands.


Want to improve your memory? The answer could be right at hand.

A new study published in journal PLOS ONE found that clenching your hands into fists could help form memories. When the right hand is clenched, the memory can be formed—and to recall that memory, clench the left hand.

“The findings suggest that some simple body movements—by temporarily changing the way the brain functions—can improve memory,” said researcher Ruth Propper, of Montclair State University. “Future research will examine whether hand clenching can also improve other forms of cognition, for example verbal or spatial abilities.”

To conduct the study, researchers split right-handed participants into five groups. They had to do an activity that required them to memorize and recall 72 words.

One group clenched their right hands into fists for 90 seconds before the words were revealed, then clenched their right hands again after they had recalled the words. Another group was asked to do the same thing, but with their left hands. The third team didn’t clench their hands at all. A fourth group clenched their left hand before the memorizing task, and then their right hand right just before they had to recite the words. The last group did the opposite, clenching their right hand when the words were revealed, and their left hand when they recalled the words.

The last group did the best.

According to the researchers, the effect of hand-clenching on memory may be because clenching a fist activates specific brain regions that are also associated with memory formation.

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