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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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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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