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Front Behav Neurosci. 2015 Oct 26;9:282. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2015.00282. eCollection 2015.

ERP measures of math anxiety: how math anxiety affects working memory and mental calculation tasks?

Author information

1
Max Planck Research Group for Neuroanatomy and Connectivity, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences Leipzig, Germany ; Group of Applied and Affective Neuroscience, Lab of Medical Physics, Medical School, Faculty of Health Sciences, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Thessaloniki, Greece.
2
School of Medicine, University of Crete Herakleion, Greece.
3
Neurophysiological Research Laboratory (L. Widén), School of Medicine, University of Crete Herakleion, Greece.
4
Max Planck Research Group for Neuroanatomy and Connectivity, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences Leipzig, Germany.
5
Group of Applied and Affective Neuroscience, Lab of Medical Physics, Medical School, Faculty of Health Sciences, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Thessaloniki, Greece.

Abstract

There have been several attempts to account for the impact of Mathematical Anxiety (MA) on brain activity with variable results. The present study examines the effects of MA on ERP amplitude during performance of simple arithmetic calculations and working memory tasks. Data were obtained from 32 university students as they solved four types of arithmetic problems (one- and two-digit addition and multiplication) and a working memory task comprised of three levels of difficulty (1, 2, and 3-back task). Compared to the Low-MA group, High-MA individuals demonstrated reduced ERP amplitude at frontocentral (between 180-320 ms) and centroparietal locations (between 380-420 ms). These effects were independent of task difficulty/complexity, individual performance, and general state/trait anxiety levels. Results support the hypothesis that higher levels of self-reported MA are associated with lower cortical activation during the early stages of the processing of numeric stimuli in the context of cognitive tasks.

KEYWORDS:

EEG; ERPs; mathematical anxiety; mathematical cognition; mental calculations; working memory

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