Clenching your right hand may help create a stronger memory of an event or action, and clenching your left hand may help you recall the memory later, according to a new study.

The research was conducted by a team of experts from Montclair State University, led by Ruth Propper, and was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

A previous study from UCLA demonstrated that stimulating key areas of the brain can improve memory.

The authors of the current report pointed out 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’.”

In order to examine how hand clenching impacted memory and recall, the investigators asked 51 right-handed participants to memorize 72 words.

The subjects were randomly assigned to one of 5 groups:

  • One group clenched their right fist for about 90 seconds right before memorizing the list and then did the same right before recalling the words.
  • One group clenched their left hand before memorizing and again before recalling.
  • One group clenched their right hand prior to memorizing and their left prior to recalling.
  • One group clenched their left hand prior to memorizing and their right prior to recollecting.
  • A control group that did not clench their fists at all.

Results showed that the volunteers who clenched their right fist when memorizing the list and then clenched their left when recalling the words performed better than all of the other hand-clenching groups.

Ruth Propper, lead investigator on the study, said:

“The findings suggest that some simple body movements – by temporarily changing the way the brain functions- can improve memory. Future research will examine whether hand clenching can also improve other forms of cognition, for example verbal or spatial abilities.”

More research is necessary to determine whether their results with word lists extend to memories of visual stimuli, such as remembering faces, or spatial tasks, such as remembering where your keys are.

Based on prior studies, the scientists concluded:

“This effect of hand-clenching on memory may be because clenching a fist activates specific brain regions that are also associated with memory formation.”

A recent study published earlier this month in the journal Neuron showed that listening to certain types of sounds while a person is sleeping can improve his or her memory.

Written by Sarah Glynn