ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2023, Vol. 55 ›› Issue (6): 968-977.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2023.00968

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The neural mechanism of the impact of mathematical anxiety on the math conceptual knowledge: Evidence from a resting-state fMRI study

CUI Fang1, LIAO Xinming2, YANG Jiawang1, LIU Jie1()   

  1. 1School of Psychology, Shenzhen University, Shenzhen 518060, China
    2Shen Zhen Guangming Yulv School, Shenzhen 518107, China
  • Published:2023-06-25 Online:2023-03-10
  • Contact: LIU Jie


Data from the Program for International Student Assessment and results from meta-analyses have consistently suggested that math anxiety dampens learning and mastering of mathematics. Among several aspects of math ability, conceptual knowledge of math has been confirmed to be negatively correlated with math anxiety levels. However, the neural mechanism responsible for this phenomenon has yet to be explored. The present study used resting-state fMRI to examine how the brain drives the correlation between math anxiety and performance on problems that test conceptual knowledge of math. Behavioral results replicated the negative correlation. Resting-state functional connectivity analysis showed that the functional coupling between the right horizontal segment of the intraparietal sulcus (HIPS) and the right insula fully mediated the correlation between math anxiety level and performance in conceptual knowdedge of math. These results suggest that the interplay between the numerical/calculation brain regions (i.e., the HIPS) and anxiety regions (i.e., insula) might underlie the negative impact that math anxiety has on conceptual math ability. Alternative interpretations are also worth noting. The present findings offer insight into the nature of math anxiety’s effect on math performance. They also pave the way for new methods of neural intervention that can prevent math anxiety from leading to low math performance.

Key words: math anxiety, conceptual knowledge of math, arithmetic principles, functional connectivity, mediation analysis