Have you ever known someone who stresses and develops anxiety when they are asked to do math? While experts have recognized the behavioral aspects of math anxiety for over 50 years, research has been limited on the biological underpinnings of the stress. In a new study, Stanford University School of Medicine researchers have determined that anxiety elicited when confronted with math problems is a biological event similar to other forms of anxiety. Experts say this is the first study to show how brain function differs in people who have math anxiety from those who don’t. Investigators performed a series of brain scans while second- and third-grade students did addition and subtraction. They discovered that those who feel panicky about doing math had increased activity in brain regions associated with fear, which caused decreased activity in parts of the brain involved in problem-solving.
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