Monday, 26 March 2007

Improve your memory: wiggle your eyes back and forth

Moving your eyes from side to side can help improve the accuracy of your memory. That's according to psychologists Andrew Parker and Neil Dagnall, who say the beneficial effect could be related to sideways eye movements increasing interactive neural activity across the front of the two brain hemispheres.

One hundred and two participants listened to 150 words, organised into ten themes (e.g. types of vehicle), read by a male voice. Next, 34 of these participants moved their eyes left and right in time with a horizontal target for thirty seconds (saccadic eye movements); 34 participants moved their eyes up and down in time with a vertical target; the remaining participants stared straight ahead, focussed on a stationary target.

After the eye movements, all the participants listened to a mixture of words: 40 they'd heard before, 40 completely unrelated new words, and 10 words that were new but which matched one of the original themes. In each case the participants had to say which words they'd heard before, and which were new.

The participants who'd performed sideways eye movements performed better in all respects than the others: they correctly recognised more of the old words as old, and more of the new words as new. Crucially, they were fooled less often by the new words whose meaning matched one of the original themes - that is they correctly recognised more of them as new. This is important because mistakenly identifying one of these 'lures' as an old word is taken as a laboratory measure of false memory. The performance of the participants who moved their eyes vertically, or who stared ahead, did not differ from each other.

“Bilateral eye movements appear to enhance true memory and decrease the extent to which subjects rely or make use of gist based false memory”, the researchers said. These findings for recognition memory build on earlier work showing sideways eye movements improve the accuracy of recall.

There is actually a type of therapy for trauma - eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing - which some people believe works via the connection between eye movements and memory, although this is controversial.

Parker, A. & Dagnall, N. (2007). Effects of bilateral eye movements on gist based false recognition in the DRM paradigm. Brain and Cognition, 63, 221-225.

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.


Health Watch Center said...

very good post on memory improvement...

One of the best ways for memory improvement is reading. Reading is an active activity for the brain. While you are reading the brain is working feverishly to process all the information coming from the book or magazine, even if the body is at rest.

This does not mean that a person can spend all of his or her time indulging in remedial romance books, but instead that a person’s reading schedule should temper current likes with unknown material.

Self Hlep Zone

carmentalksnews said...

This is a very insighful post. I am amazed that something as simple as eye movements can enhance memory.

I've found some info of my own regarding memory. Here is a bit of what I found...

Don’t Forget About Exercising Your Memory!
Think there’s nothing you can do once your memory starts slipping? Think again. The following guide can get you back on track. Try these tips, which involve working your brain in new ways.
1. Be alert. It sounds elementary, but simply being aware of what is happening increases and exercises your memory.
2. Get organized. If it’s worth memorizing, it’s worth taking notes on it, no matter what “it” is. Scientists agree: Short-term memory can only hold seven items at one time. Choose your seven and jot down notes on others.
3. Use association. For new information, ask yourself how the information relates to ideas with which you’re already familiar. Try familiar stimulis such as repeating or grouping like ideas.
4. Remember through teaching. Explain your new memory/idea
to someone else in your own words. This is a great tool for increasing
5. Say it out loud. Don’t worry about what others are thinking when
you think out loud. Recite what you are reading; paraphrase; review notes out loud.
6. Set aside time for review. After learning something new, make time to review the information. Retention relies on review; that phrase itself will help you remember to review!
7. Exercise your memory. Learn a new subject or re-learn an old
subject from your previous schooling, such as math, science, or history— something you have forgotten.
8. Keep a journal. A journal exercises the mind. It will also help you remember through review.
9. Do crossword puzzles. These are great exercises for the memory.
They will help you remember and sharpen your wit too.
10. Practice using visual imagery. Go through the steps of building or
creating something.

beartoes said...

That was a truly fascinating post. Moving your eyes side to side, how simple. I would have liked to know what the rhythm was for the 30 second eye movement. Never the less, I will try this method. There are other great techniques that have also been used, and you can learn some of them at Photographic Memory. Using as many of the senses as you can to remember something is very important. That is why, writing something down allows you to remember it better than say just reading something. Saying things out load to yourself is another. That was a great post, keep it up.

Faiz said...

This is great info. A simple thing as that can improve memory. I have to try for myself to believe it and if that one ticks for me then you get the credit.

Anonymous said...

As a professional hypnotist, I use the power of suggestion to enable ordinary folks to have photographic memory. If interested on how to hypnotize yourself to achieve total recall ability effortlessly, email me at

Anonymous said...

If you have a life that is in turmoil on a daily basis, unorganized and over packed with activities, never allowing yourself adequate care, your memory is certain to develop some degree of suffering. It is surely something that will require some thought and time to repair. You must first take stock of your priorities. How well do you care for your mind and body? Maybe you think a quick rush to the gym will do the trick. The key here is 'rush'.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your valuable information.

Anonymous said...

If you're interested in improving your memory, you may want to check out 'Improve your memory today', a book by Rob Eastaway and Dr Hilary Jones, just released in January 2009.

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Anonymous said...

moving your eyes back and forth doesnt do the trick for me.i have very bad memory and i actually move my eyes back and forth all the time because i can do this thing with my eyes where i move my eyes very rapidly back and forth.i have done this since i was little, and i have always been only 15, but i have such a terrible memory that when i read books,i often forget what happens, so therefore,i read them again.

Anonymous said...

As both a 2nd yr Psy student (BSc) and someone who has someone close who was treated with EMR I can attest to it's efficacy, or at least that it worked for him as a treatment for PTSD. Great article, as always from here, thanks :)

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