Worries About Math on the Brain

The University of Chicago has released a study that shows when an individual worries about math, it has a similar reaction on the brain to when a person experiences physical pain.  A leading expert about math anxiety from the University said, “For someone who has math anxiety, the anticipation of doing math prompts a similar brain reaction as when they experience pain — say, burning one’s hand on a hot stove.”  They did find that it was not the actual act of doing math that causes the reaction, but rather the anxiety the takes place pre-math. “The brain activation does not happen during math performance, suggesting that it is not the math itself that hurts; rather the anticipation of math is painful,” adds another expert.   The article describes the actual study: The study volunteers were tested in an fMRI machine, which allowed researchers to examine brain activity as they did math. Volunteers were given mathematics equations to verify — for example, the validity of the following equation: (12 x 4) — 19 = 29. While in the fMRI scanner, subjects were also shown short word puzzles.  They found that a painful reaction may occur long before the individual actually sits down to take an exam, and affects multiple regions of the brain.   Many individuals were found to even avoid math related career paths in their future.  This information is concurrent with previous studies that show math anxiety can occur as early as the first grade!  They believe future researchers should take this information and treat it as a real phobia, much like a fear of heights.


Do you have this math anxiety explained? Do you believe this is a truly a phobia and could have medical implications?


This study was from sciencedaily.com

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