Anxiety About Math Causes Pain-Like Brain Response

November 2, 2012


I was never good at math and I'm still not now. 5 x 5 = 30. Okay that time I actually got it right, normally I don't though. And now researchers have discovered that anxiety about doing mathematics causes a brain response similar to one when experiencing bodily harm. DO YOU HEAR THAT, MS. McKINLEY? You were killing me the whole time!

"For someone who has math anxiety, the anticipation of doing math prompts a similar brain reaction as when they experience pain -- say, burning one's hand on a hot stove," said Sian Beilock, professor of psychology at the University of Chicago and a leading expert on math anxiety.

Surprisingly, the researchers found it was the anticipation of having to do math, and not actually doing math itself, that looked like pain in the brain. "The brain activation does not happen during math performance, suggesting that it is not the math itself that hurts; rather the anticipation of math is painful..."

Listen: I find the anticipation of doing math and the actual DOING of math equally painful. To me it's like having your head in a vice and slamming your fingers in a car door over and over and over. While on fire. And being eaten alive by tigers. No -- ants. It's like that, but way worse and much more painful.

Thanks to Essi, who's brain has a similar response to doing ANY kind of work. Same here!

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