If you want your memory to work a little better, researchers say they’ve found some easy ways to give it a little boost.
According to these studies, moving your hands and eyes in certain ways can expand how much of your brain is engaged when you’re trying to learn new information or memorize things.
The tests of these movements show they may not work for everybody under all circumstances. But they’re simple to do so they’re certainly worth trying out if your recall abilities could use a little extra help.
Let me show you what I mean…
A technique for remembering things more effectively involves clenching and unclenching your fists according to a study at Montclair State University in New Jersey.
In this research, involving about fifty people aged 18 to 48, the scientists had the test subjects try to memorize a list of words after tightening and then relaxing their fists in various combinations.
The study found that one sequence of hand movements worked best: Clenching the right hand for 90 seconds and then relaxing that hand just before memorizing the words, and then clenching and unclenching the left for the same amount of time before trying to recall them. Those hand motions increased how many words people could remember.1
Getting A Grip On Memory
Why does this work for some people? Well, the researchers say that the left side of your brain controls the right hand while the right brain hemisphere controls the left. So clenching your right hand stimulates the left hemisphere which is involved in encoding new information. Then, when you stimulate the right brain hemisphere by clenching your left hand, you’re activating the side of the brain primarily involved in retrieving information.
Unfortunately, this memory trick, according to the researchers, doesn’t work for left-handed people whose brains apparently organize their memories in a different way than right-handers.
The Memory Is Quicker Than The Eyes
Another possible way to better your memory involves moving your eyes back and forth. Around two dozen studies have shown that moving your eyes back and forth laterally several times, but not up and down vertically, can boost your mental recall.
A review study of this research performed in Asia concludes that while this trick seems to work whether or not you are left- or right-handed, it gives better results for people who are strongly right-handed.2
Researchers theorize that these eye movements help memory because the back-and-forth eye motions lead to increased coordination of the neuronal networks in both hemispheres of your brain. Another theory says these eye movements encourage more focus and attention.
Right-Handers And Left-Handers May Learn Differently
One of the interesting things I learned in going over the research into these techniques for helping memory is how little researchers understand about the brain differences between people who are right-handed and left-handed. And when studies show that some of these methods of hand clenching and moving your eyes can improve memory, they can’t explain why it works better in right-handed people. All they have is theories.
Another discovery is that while both left-handed and right-handed people tend to have equal aptitudes for learning mathematics, folks who are what the researchers call “strongly” one-handed (right-handed or left-handed) do worse at math than people who mostly use the left or right hand, but not so exclusively. On the flip side, truly ambidextrous people also do worse at learning math.3
Then, there’s a review study by researchers at the University of Mississippi where they analyzed a range of research on cognition and handedness. They found that being of “indeterminate” handedness – in other words, ambidextrous without favoring either hand — is linked to better access to “episodic memory” — more effective recall of the events in your life.4
No matter which hand you favor, you can try out some of these tricks and see if they work for you. And if there are any more discoveries about how simple movements can help you improve your memory, I’ll let you know.