5 Memory Tips That Will Boost Your Brain Power

1
Chew Gum

women chewing gum
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In one study, researchers discovered that participants who chewed gum throughout a battery of memory and attention tests scored nearly 25 percent higher than those who did not.

The explanations for this phenomenon are not entirely clear, but some researchers speculate that chewing gum may increase activity in the hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with memory and attention.

Another study found that a brief burst of gum chewing right before a test led to a 15 to 20-minute window where participants were able to remember 25 to 50 percent more than their non-chewing counterparts.

Again, the exact reasons are still unknown, but the study's authors suggested a theory that they refer to as "mastication-induced arousal." In other words, chewing gum leads to arousal and increases blood supply to the brain. This leads to a brief brain boost that results in better test performance.

2
Move Your Eyes From Side to Side

Eyes looking sideways
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In one study, researchers found that participants who moved their eyes from side to side for just 30 seconds each morning performed an average of 10 percent better on recall tasks later on. The study also found that such bilateral eye movements reduced false memories on memory tasks by 15 percent.

Why would moving your eyes lead to better memory? Although explanations are still speculative, researchers hypothesize that these horizontal eye movements help activate and link both the right and left hemispheres of the brain.

So will wiggling your eyes back-and-forth help you with those moments of daily forgetfulness? While the researchers are not yet sure, they suggest that it certainly won’t hurt.

3
Take a Quick Power Nap

Man taking a power nap
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The next time you are facing a tough test or work project, try taking a quick powernap before-hand. In one study, participants who napped for just 45 to 60 minutes before a memory task saw a five-fold improvement in performance.

Experts have long known that sleep plays an important role in memory. One of the top explanations for why we sleep is that our nightly slumber is required for memory consolidation and brain cleanup.

Researchers have also found that sleeping right after you learn something might play an important role in memory. In lab experiments, mice who slept immediately after a learning task experienced greater dendritic growth in key areas of the brain than did mice who were sleep-deprived.

So if you need an excuse for a quick nap, just explain that you are trying to improve your memory.

4
Clench Your Fists

Woman with clenched fist
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One study found that (for right-handed people) clenching your right fist before you learn something and then clenching your left when you remember it might just lead to better memory. (If you are left-handed, do the opposite).

Why would such body movements lead to better recall? Explanations are far from clear, but the odd trick might work because clenching your fist activates certain areas of the brain. For right-handed individuals, making a fist with the right hand activates the left-side of the brain which is associated with the formation of memory. Gripping the left hand activates the opposite side, which is linked to memory recall.

In the study, researchers had participants grip a small ball for 45 seconds with their right hand before memorizing a word list. The participants then gripped the ball with their left hand as they wrote down as many of the words that they could remember. Other groups of participants followed the reverse procedure or only held a ball loosely.

Those who had begun by gripping with their right and then switching to their left hand performed better on the memory tasks than those in the other groups.

While experts caution that more research is needed, they suggest that trying this simple memory hack won't hurt and might even help.

5
Write It Down

Woman writing things down to remember
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Try writing down what you want to remember. No, it’s not so that you can look back on it later and remind yourself (that’s just an additional benefit). Psychologists have actually found that just the act of writing things down can boost memory.

One study be researchers from UCLA found that students who write class notes by hand learn more than those who type their notes on laptops. Not surprisingly, the laptop users were able to take more notes than the hand writers, yet the experimenters found that those who typed had a weaker memory and understanding of the study material.

Handwriting might be slower and more laborious, but when it comes to memory, it seems that slow and steady is what wins the race.

Sources:

Mueller, P.A., & Oppenheimer, D.M. The pen is mightier than the keyboard: Advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. Psychological Science; 2014. doi: 10.1177/0956797614524581.

Onyper, S.V., Carr, T.L., Farrar, J.S., Floyd, B.R. Cognitive advantages of chewing gum. Now you see them, now you don't. Appetite. 2011; 57(2): 321-328.

Propper, R.E., McGraw, S.E., Brunye, T.T., & Weiss, M. (2013). Getting a grip on memory: Unilateral hand clenching alters episodic recall. PLOSOne, 2013; 8(5). 

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