Math anxiety is a common phenomenon which can have a negative impact on numerical and arithmetic performance. However, so far little is known about the underlying neurocognitive mechanisms. This mini review provides an overview of studies investigating the neural correlates of math anxiety which provide several hints regarding its influence on math performance: while behavioral studies mostly observe an influence of math anxiety on difficult math tasks, neurophysiological studies show that processing efficiency is already affected in basic number processing. Overall, the neurocognitive literature suggests that (i) math anxiety elicits emotion- and pain-related activation during and before math activities, (ii) that the negative emotional response to math anxiety impairs processing efficiency, and (iii) that math deficits triggered by math anxiety may be compensated for by modulating the cognitive control or emotional regulation network. However, activation differs strongly between studies, depending on tasks, paradigms and samples. We conclude that neural correlates can help to understand and explore the processes underlying math anxiety, but the data are not very consistent yet.
Artemenko, C., Daroczy, G., & Nuerk, H.-C. (2015). Neural correlates of math anxiety – an overview and implications. Frontiers in Psychology, 6. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01333