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Math Anxiety causes Brain to feel Physical Pain

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Doing math - BSN

(Best Syndication News) - A study from the University of Chicago found that anxiety experienced doing math can cause a person to feel physical pain. The researchers found that the brain areas that register a threat of bodily harm, and in some instances physical pain, are activated when people are stressed over math problems.

Sian Beilock, professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, said that the brain response of a person suffering from math anxiety is similar to someone feeling physical pain. Sian said that the pain could be similar to a burning sensation experienced on a stove.

Doing the math problem was not the source of the response; it was the anxiety caused by the math problem.

The researchers studied 14 adults and their brain response to a series of math questions. An fMRI machine was used to measure the brain activity of the participants during these questions. Participants were asked to verify if a math equation, such as (12 x 4) – 19 = 29, was correct. They were also given short word puzzles to solve, such as unscrambling mixed up letters to form the correct word.

The participants with the most math anxiety had activation in the posterior insula that is related to feelings of direct bodily harm and feelings of pain.

The study, "When Math Hurts: Math Anxiety Predicts Pain Network Activation in Anticipation of Doing Math," is published in the current issue of PlOS One.

By: Marsha Quinn
Health Reporter

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