Many people find math difficult … but painful? Surprisingly, yes.
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The Public Library of Science journal PLOS One article title said it all. Read the article if you’re up for the ouchies.
Surprisingly, brain scans show that ANTICIPATION hurts worse than doing the actual math.
Math Anxiety Predicts Pain Network Activation in Anticipation of Doing Math
Are HMAs’ feelings about math merely psychological epiphenomena, or is their anxiety grounded in simulation of a concrete, visceral sensation – such as pain – about which they have every right to feel anxious? We show that, when anticipating an upcoming math-task, the higher one’s math anxiety, the more one increases activity in regions associated with visceral threat detection, and often the experience of pain itself (bilateral dorso-posterior insula). Interestingly, this relation was not seen during math performance, suggesting that it is not that math itself hurts; rather, the anticipation of math is painful. Our data suggest that pain network activation underlies the intuition that simply anticipating a dreaded event can feel painful.
This was big news in 2012, why didn’t I hear about it then? Even National Geographic picked up on it.
Math Can Be Truly Painful, Brain Study Shows
Does the thought of 1+1=ouch?
If you hate math, it might—literally. According to a new study, the mere prospect of a math problem causes pain centers to light up in number-phobic brains.