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Weird but true: Study: Unilateral clenching of hands into fists can improve memory
Posted: Monday, May 6, 2013 10:54 PM
Joined: 12/20/2011
Posts: 217




Weird trick to improve memory: Clench your hands into fists, study says

For right-handed people, clenching the right hand when you want to remember something and the left hand when you want to recall it is a neat mind-body trick for a better memory, Montclair State University researchers found.


A new study suggests that to boost your memory, simply clench your hands into fists. To help form memories, clench your right hand, and to recall the memory, clench your left hand, they said. 


Researchers divided 51 right-handed study participants into different groups and assigned them an activity involving memorizing and recalling 72 words. 

The study participants were divided into five groups — one group clenched their right fist for 90 seconds before memorising the list of words, then clenched it again before recollecting the words.  


The second group did the same using their left hand.  


The third and fourth groups clenched one hand when learning the words and the opposite hand before recalling, and the fifth group was a control group that did not clench their fists at all.  


Dr Propper found the group that clenched their right fist when studying the list, then clenched their left when tested for their recollection of the words performed the best.  


She concluded that simple body movements can change the way the brain functions.  


Past research has shown that clenching your left hand activates the right side of the brain, while clenching the right activates the left.


Memory uses both sides of the brain — the right for retrieving memories and the left for encoding them — so the authors wanted to test whether activating each section could help with memory. 



The study:

Getting a Grip on Memory: Unilateral Hand Clenching Alters Episodic Recall 

Posted: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 2:35 PM
Joined: 12/6/2011
Posts: 3326

Amazing.  Will try it. 
Posted: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 6:46 PM
Joined: 12/20/2011
Posts: 217



This other article gives more details, which I found helpful: 


Want to Hold On to a Memory? Make a Fist


Getting a grip — literally — by clenching your right fist before remembering information and your left when you want to remember it can boost your recall, according to the latest study. 



This strange trick may work because clenching your hands activates the side of the brain that handles the function — in right-handed people, for instance, the left side of the brain is primarily responsible for encoding information and the right for recalling memory. (If you are left-handed, the opposite applies.) 



To test this idea, researchers led by Ruth Propper of Montclair State University in New Jersey studied 50 right-handed college students, mainly women. They were given a list of 36 words to remember and a small pink ball to clench. 



One group clenched the ball twice for 45 seconds, each with their right hands before memorizing the words, then did the same with their left hands before writing down as many words as they could recall; another group performed the same task but reversed the order of the fists they made. Two other groups used the same hand each time, one group using the left and the other the right. A final group didn’t clench the ball at all but held it gently in both hands each time. 



The group that started with the right hand — and activated the left side of their brains, which helps encode memory, and then clenched their left hand, activating the right side of the brain during recall — performed the best on the memory test. 



“The findings suggest that some simple body movements — by temporarily changing the way the brain functions — can improve memory,” Propper said in a statement describing the results, which were published in the journal PLoS One. 



Participants recalled an average of 10 words if they clenched their right hand for encoding and left for recall, which was four more than those who used the opposite clenching pattern. 



And as odd as it seems, there is precedent for the role of fist making in cognitive functions; earlier studies found that hand clenching has emotional effects as well. Clenching the right hand was linked to increased anger and happiness, which are both typically processed on the left side of the brain, while clenching the left hand tends to increase sadness or anxiety, since the right side of the brain tends to process these emotions. 



But if you’re preparing to make fists while studying for an exam or practicing a speech, the researchers say more work is needed to determine whether this technique would actually be useful. In the meantime, however, it probably couldn’t hurt, although you would have to remember which hand to use for which process. 

© 2013 Time Inc. All rights reserved 



And here's another detail, this time from the study:

"... Participants were instructed via computer and by the experimenter to squeeze a pink, 5 cm [about 2 inch] diameter, rubber ball as hard as possible for two sets of 45 seconds, with an intervening 15 second break..."