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Brain Study Links Emotional Self-Regulation and Math Performance

Brain Study Points to Poten­tial Treat­ments for Math Anx­i­ety (Edu­ca­tion Week):

  • The study, pub­lished this morn­ing in the jour­nal Cere­bral Cor­tex, is a con­tin­u­a­tion of work on high­ly math-anx­ious peo­ple being con­duct­ed by Sian L. Beilock, asso­ciate psy­chol­o­gy pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go, and doc­tor­al can­di­date Ian M. Lyons. In pri­or research, Beilock has found that just the thought of doing math prob­lems can trig­ger stress respons­es in peo­ple with math anx­i­ety, and adult teach­ers can pass their trep­i­da­tion about math on to their stu­dents.”
  • Stu­dents who were anx­ious about math but per­formed well any­way showed high activ­i­ty in the frontal and pari­etal regions of the brain when they learned a math prob­lem was com­ing up; these are not the areas of the brain asso­ci­at­ed with cal­cu­lat­ing num­bers, but those asso­ci­at­ed with cog­ni­tive con­trol, focus, and reg­u­lat­ing neg­a­tive emo­tions. Stu­dents who acti­vat­ed these parts of the brain before attempt­ing the math prob­lem got 83 per­cent of the prob­lems cor­rect, near­ly the same as the 88 per­cent accu­ra­cy of stu­dents with low math anx­i­ety. By con­trast, high­ly anx­ious stu­dents whose brains did not reg­is­ter activ­i­ty in those regions got only 68 per­cent of the math ques­tions cor­rect.”
  • This study real­ly sug­gests we can devise inter­ven­tions that can help stu­dents reap­praise the sit­u­a­tion and con­trol emo­tions before they even get into a task,” Beilock said. “It shows how some math anx­ious peo­ple are able to engage brain pow­er to suc­ceed.”

To read study: Click Here (opens PDF).

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