Math Can Be Truly Painful, Brain Study Shows
For math-phobes, anticipation of math work activates pain centers in brain.
Researchers at the University of Chicago measured the neural activity of 28 adults—14 who'd been identified with high math anxiety and 14 with low math anxiety. Each subject was given a series of word and math questions (some of which are below) while his or her brain was scanned.
Result: When those in the high-anxiety group saw a math task was coming, their dorso-posterior insulas and mid-cingulate cortexes—the parts of the brain that perceive pain and bodily threats—reacted as if the subject's hand had been burned on a hot stove. Those in the low-anxiety group showed no such response.
(Related: "Electric Jolt to Brain Boosts Math Skills.")
What's more, said study co-author Ian Lyons, "the anxiety occurred only during anticipation. When