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Can clenching fists improve memory?

April 24, 2013|By Monte Morin
  • A study suggests a link between memory and fist clenching.
A study suggests a link between memory and fist clenching. (memegenerator.net )

Want a better grip on your memory? A study suggests clenching a fist could play a role in how well you recall information.

The study, published Tuesday in the journal PLOS ONE, was funded partially by the U.S. Army. It examined whether clenching the right or left fist could stimulate brain regions possibly connected to memory.

Researchers recruited 51 right-handed individuals for the experiment, and asked them to squeeze a pink rubber ball for 90 seconds before they were shown a list of 36 words. They were then asked to squeeze the ball again before they wrote down as many of the words as they could remember.

The test subjects who squeezed the ball with their right hand before memorizing the list, and then squeezed it with their left hand before writing words down, performed best.

Those who squeezed the ball first with their left hand, and then with their right, or those who used just one hand, recalled fewer words.

Lead study author Ruth Propper, an associate professor of psychology at Montclair State University in New Jersey, said those who used the right then left hand combination also scored better than the control group of subjects who squeezed nothing. However, this improvement was not enough to be deemed "statistically significant."

"In total, these results are striking," the authors wrote. "Given that the manipulation used a total of 90 seconds of unilateral hand clenching pre-encoding and pre-recall is easily adaptable to a variety of experimental, clinical and real-world situations."

Study authors wrote that electroencephalograms demonstrate that fist clenching can increase activity in the opposite hemisphere of the brain.

This phenomenon, combined with the theory that the left prefrontal region of the brain is responsible for "encoding" information, and the right prefrontal region is responsible for its "retrieval," prompted the authors to see whether fist clenching could improve memory.

The authors noted that they did not measure brain activity in the study, and that further research was necessary to prove the connection.

Return to Science Now blog.

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