A recent study indicates that improving your memory might be as simple as making a fist.

Published in the journal PLOS ONE, this study states that unilateral hand clenching increases neuronal activity in the frontal lobe of the contralateral hemisphere. Such hand clenching is also associated with increased experiencing of a given hemisphere's "mode of processing." That means making a fist helps you create stronger memories and recall them faster.

Researchers at Montclair State University asked 51 right-handed participants to memorize 72 words. They were instructed via computer and by researchers to squeeze a rubber ball as hard as possible for two sets of 45 seconds with a 15-second break. They broke the participants into five groups that clutched different hands for memory formation and recall, plus a control group that didn't clench at all.

What did they find out?

Researchers discovered that those who clenched their right fist when memorizing the words and their left for recalling them performed better than all the other hand-clenching groups.

These scientists think that hand clenching, and possibly other simple body movements, temporarily changes the way the brain uses information. By stimulating different neurons, the brain functions differently and therefore uses and stores information differently than it would if those neurons were not stimulated.

Try duplicating this study at home by alternately clenching your right fist before memorizing a list of words or passage from a book and then your left fist when you're ready to recall what you memorized. Then try doing the opposite—left fist for memorization and right fist for recall and see how your memory fares. Or, try these other simple techniques for improving your memory:

1. Link words and numbers with images or music

When trying to remember someone's name or phone number, create a visual picture to go with it. It's often easier for your brain to recall pictures than words, which might be why a picture really is worth a thousand words. Clinical psychologist LeslieBeth Wish says, "Think of a song that reminds you of the words or numbers. Music is one of our earliest ways of recalling things correctly. Think about all the children who learned their ABC's to a tune.

2. Do puzzles

This falls into the "use it or lose it" category of brain activity. Challenge your brain to recall information by doing crosswords, Sudoku, or word jumbles.

3. Get plenty of exercise

Increasing your overall circulatory health will keep your brain well oxygenated and functioning at its best. That means staying physically active and making exercise a regular part of your lifestyle.

4. Get your sleep

Memories are also best formed during sleep, which is why students who "sleep on it" after studying perform better on tests than those who pull all-nighters. Fatigue impacts all physical and mental functions and if you frequently cut your z's short, you may be impacting your ability to create and recall memories.

LeslieBeth Wish, EDD, MSS, reviewed this article.



Plos One April 24, 2013; doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0062474
Getting a Grip on Memory: Unilateral Hand Clenching Alters Episodic Recal
Ruth E. Propper, Sean E. McGraw, Tad T. Brunyé, Michael Weiss