Clenching the Hands May Improve Memory, Study Says

June 10, 2013

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. clench [klench] (v.) – to tightly close something, such as hands and teeth
Example: My father usually clenches his hands when he is angry.

2. recollect [ree-kuh-LEKT] (v.) – to recall or to remember
 Example: She tried to recollect her dream when she woke up.

3. encode [en-KOHD] (v.) – to store information in the brain
Example: Good concentration ensures that memories are well-encoded in the brain.

4. trigger [trig-ER] (v.) – to activate, to start, or to initiate something
Example: Fear may trigger the fall of tears.

5. sample [SAM-puhl] (n.) – a group of people that represents a larger group and are studied by researchers
Example: Out of 1000 people, the scientists performed the tests using a sample of only 400 people.


Read the text below.

A new study published in the PLOS ONE journal suggests that clenching the hands can improve a person’s memory.

U.S. psychologists said that clenching the right hand may help in forming stronger memories, while clenching the left hand may help in remembering those memories later on.

The scientists from Montclair State University in New Jersey studied 50 right-handed participants, who were divided into five groups and given a list of words to memorize.

The first group clenched the right hand for 90 seconds before memorizing and before trying to remember the words. The second group did the same, but with the left hand. The third and fourth groups clenched one hand before memorizing and clenched the other hand before recollecting. The last group, on the other hand, did not clench their hands at all.

The researchers found that the participants who clenched their right hand before memorizing and clenched their left hand before recollecting performed the best among the groups.

These results align with previous studies showing that clenching the right hand activates the left side of the brain. The left part of the brain is responsible for encoding memories. Clenching the left hand, in contrast, triggers the right side of the brain, which is responsible for retrieving memories.

However, scientists need more work to confirm the new claims, said Professor Neil Burgess of University College London. He suggests that the scientists should conduct further investigation using a larger sample. He also recommends using brain scanning technology to confirm and validate the claims.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you believe that it is important to have a good memory? Why or why not?
·         What do you usually do when you need to remember something? Share your strategies with your tutor.

Discussion B

·         When do you find keeping memories helpful? Why do you say so?
·         Some people like to document their lives through pictures or by maintaining online diaries. Do you do the same? Why or why not?


June 10, 2013