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Learning trick: clench fists for better memory

Montclair (USA) - To be able to remember something better, there could be a surprisingly simple trick: just clench your fists. Immediately before learning to clench the right hand into a fist and immediately before repeating what has been learned, the left hand seems to improve memory performance slightly. US researchers have observed this connection in more than 50 right-handers, they report in the journal “PLoS ONE”. They support a theory according to which clenching the right hand into a fist activates certain regions in the left hemisphere that are related to the storage of information. Conversely, the clenching of the left hand activates areas in the right hemisphere that have to do with recalling memory information. The scientists do not say at this point whether the same trick also works for left-handed or two-handed people.

"The results suggest that a few simple movements can improve memory - by changing the way the brain works in the short term," says Ruth Propper of Montclair State University. “Future research will investigate whether clenching the hand into a fist can also improve other types of cognition, for example verbal or spatial skills.” Propper and her colleagues examined whether clenching a fist had an effect on memory performance in a total of 51 right-handed people. To do this, they divided the test persons into five groups for a learning experiment in which they should learn 72 words and memorize as many of them as possible and write them down again. One clenched her right fist for 90 seconds just before memorizing the word list and did the same thing again just before playing the words. A second group did the same with their left fists. The two remaining groups switched hands between studying and reciting. The control group, on the other hand, left their hands relaxed.

It turned out that those who clenched their right fists when studying and their left fists when remembering could clearly write more words than those who clenched their fists in any of the other sequences. The other three orders did not bring any advantages, however. On the contrary: They seemed to disturb their concentration rather easily, because these test subjects performed slightly worse than those participants who had not clenched their fists at all. Those who clenched first on the right, then on the left, on the other hand, even performed a little better than test persons in the control group - although this difference was not statistically significant. Propper and her colleagues suspect that the movements of the hands activate certain brain regions of the frontal lobe that are also involved in memory formation. In further investigations, they want to find out whether the trick not only supports learning of word lists, but also occurs in other memory functions such as recognizing faces or spatial imagination.

In the current study, however, the researchers only present results for right-handers. How it behaves with left-handed and two-handed people, they do not comment in the current publication, but they probably have initial information. You write that you want to present these results elsewhere.

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