Moving your eyes from side to side for 30 seconds every morning can boost memory by up to 10 per cent, a study suggests, reports Lewis Smith in the London Times. The findings appear to support the use of Visuospatial processing exercises - "games" that focus on eye movement in boosting memory and recall and provide independent verification of findings observed using these exercises.
Students who took part in the eye exercise tests found that their memory recall was boosted by a spot of eye jiggling. The exercises work, it is thought, because the eye movements cause the two hemispheres of the brain to interact more efficiently with each other.
Research led by Andrew Parker of Manchester Metropolitan University, identified the potential exam revision technique while studying false recall. "This could be important in situations where we feel uncertain, unclear or maybe even just confused about what we may have done or said," he said. "It may help someone recall an important piece of information for an exam or for a shopping list."
He presented 102 university students with recordings of a male voice reading 20 lists of 15 words. The subjects were then handed a list of words and asked to pick out those that they had just heard. On average, the students who had moved their eyes from side to side performed 10 per cent better than the rest. Up and down eye movement was of no use at all to recall.
Contained within the lists were "lure" words that were not in the spoken list but were similar to some of those that were. Students who had moved eyes sideways were 15 per cent better at ignoring the misleading words.
Dr Parker said: "Our work shows that true memory can be improved and false memory reduced. One reason for this is that bilateral eye movements may improve our ability to monitor the source of our memories. He said that people are often confused over whether a memory is real or imagined, such as whether a bill was paid or a door locked.
"The problem is to determine the source of one’s memory — real or imagined. Bilateral eye movements may help us to determine accurately the source of our memory," he said.
He came up with the idea of testing students and getting them to move their eyes after previous research indicated that some memories are dependent on the level of activity between the brain’s two hemispheres.
The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Brain and Cognition, anticipated a reduction in false memory but were taken aback to find that the eye movements assisted recall of true memories.
"The effects are so counter-intuitive," Dr Parker said. "That such a straightforward experimental manipulation can bring about enhanced memory for studied information and lower the number of memory errors is quite exciting."
More work has to be done to establish in what contexts the technique will be effective and whether it really will help in an exam. But he added: "If one does forget something then it will do no harm to try moving one’s eyes from side to side — to see if it does make a difference."