ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

心理学报 ›› 2023, Vol. 55 ›› Issue (6): 968-977.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2023.00968

• 研究报告 • 上一篇    下一篇


崔芳1, 廖心明2, 杨嘉望1, 刘洁1()   

  1. 1深圳大学心理学院, 深圳 518060
    2深圳市光明区玉律学校, 深圳 518107
  • 收稿日期:2022-06-16 发布日期:2023-03-06 出版日期:2023-06-25
  • 通讯作者: 刘洁
  • 基金资助:

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
  • Received:2022-06-16 Online:2023-03-06 Published:2023-06-25


数学焦虑是一种对数学感到紧张焦虑的情绪反应。以往研究发现, 个体的数学焦虑水平越高, 在包括数学概念知识在内的不同类型数学任务中的表现就越差。本研究旨在探讨数学焦虑影响数学概念知识加工的脑机制。在控制广泛性焦虑的影响后, 筛选出92名健康成年人, 对其数学焦虑水平、语言理解能力、智力及其在数学概念知识任务中的表现进行了测量和分析。结果发现, 在控制了语言理解能力和智力的影响后, 个体的数学焦虑水平与其在数学概念知识任务中的成绩呈现显著负相关。对静息态功能磁共振数据的分析发现, 个体右侧水平段顶内沟与右侧脑岛之间的功能连接强度可以显著预测其数学概念知识成绩, 且该功能连接完全中介了数学焦虑水平与数学概念知识成绩之间的相关。这一结果表明, 数学/计算相关脑区(顶内沟)与焦虑相关脑区(脑岛)之间的相互作用可能是数学焦虑干扰数学概念知识任务的神经基础。

关键词: 数学焦虑, 数学概念知识, 静息态功能磁共振, 顶内沟, 脑岛


Math, the basic tool for technology and engineering, is fundamental to professionals in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. Math anxiety is a negative emotional response that is characterized by avoidance and feelings of stress and anxiety in situations involving mathematical reasoning. Math anxiety in students has been suggested to dampening learning and mastering of mathematics.
Among various math skills, the ability to do conceptual knowledge of math has been confirmed to be significantly and negatively correlated with math anxiety. As an essential type of knowledge in mathematics, conceptual understanding is defined as an implicit or explicit understanding of the principles that govern a domain and of the relationships between units of knowledge in a domain. Neuroimaging studies have shown that the regions of the brain needed for processing mathematical conceptual knowledge might differ from those needed for other types of math such as calculation or basic numerical processing. Doing conceptual knowledge of math reportedly activated brain regions that are related to numerical processing, such as the bilateral intraparietal sulcus (IPS), as well as brain regions associated with general conceptual knowledge processing, such as the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and left middle temporal gyrus (MTG).
Although the correlation between conceptual math skill and math anxiety has been confirmed at the behavioral level, the neural mechanism remains unknown. Previous studies found that in people with high math anxiety, brain regions related to negative emotions were found to be more active during the numerical tasks, while regions related to emotion regulation and the processing of numbers and calculations were less active. In addition to hyper-activation of the emotional network, brain regions that govern mathematical tasks, showed reduced activation in people with high math anxiety.
To address the neural mechanism that allows math anxiety to impede the processing of conceptual math, we used resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to determine how brain activity is related to the effects that math anxiety has on the performance of problems that test conceptual math knowledge. (1) we selected four regions of interest (ROIs) that were considered as important neural substrates for processing arithmetic principles in a previous fMRI study. We performed correlation analysis between the seed-based FC maps and the performance of math conceptual knowledge to construct neural pathways that process math conceptual knowledge. (2) we utilized mediation analysis to investigate the relationships between math anxiety, the performance of math conceptual knowledge, and the possible neural pathways. To avoid numerical formats that would likely induce confounding math anxiety, we used a verbalized arithmetic principles task.
After excluding trait anxiety and state anxiety abnormalities, as well as participants who exceed the criterion of head motion during scanning, 92 healthy adult university students (43 females), aged 18-23 years (M = 20.91, SD = 2.33) were left for the data analysis. After controlling for the extraneous factors such as language and intelligence, the partial correlation results showed a significant negative correlation between mathematical anxiety and performance on conceptual knowledge of mathematics (r = −0.26, p = 0.008), which replicated the findings of previous studies and confirmed that mathematical anxiety did inhibit individuals' learning and acquisition of conceptual knowledge of mathematics. The functional connectivity in the resting brain of individuals was correlated with different levels of mathematical anxiety in the functional connectivity between the horizontal segment of the right intraparietal sulcus and the right insula. Furthermore, this functional connectivity fully mediated the correlation between the level of mathematical anxiety and the performance of mathematical conceptual knowledge. These results suggest that the interaction between mathematical/computation-related brain regions (e.g. the horizontal segment of the intraparietal sulcus) and anxiety circuits (e.g. the insula) may be the neural basis for the negative effect of mathematical anxiety on the performance of mathematical conceptual knowledge.

Key words: mathematical anxiety, mathematical concept knowledge, resting-state fMRI, intraparietal sulcus, insula