New Article : The impact of math anxiety on working memory: A cortical activations and cortical functional connectivity EEG study
Mathematical anxiety (MA) is defined as a feeling of tension, apprehension, or fear that interferes with mathematical performance in various daily or academic situations. Cognitive consequences of MA have been studied a lot and revealed that MA seriously affects complex problem solving due to the corruption of working memory (WM). The corruption of WM caused by MA is well documented in behavioral level, but the involved neurophysiological processes have not been properly addressed, despite the recent attention drawn on the neural basis of MA. This is the second part of our study that intents to investigate the neurophysiological aspects of MA and its implications to WM. In the first study, we saw the how MA affects so the early stages of numeric stimuli processes as the WM indirectly, using Event Related Potentials (ERPs) in scalp EEG signals. This study goes one step further to investigate the cortical activations, obtained by multichannel EEG recordings, as well as, the cortical functional networks in three working memory tasks with increasing difficulty. Our results indicate that the High Math Anxious (HMA) group activated more areas linked with negative emotions, pain and fear, while the Low Math Anxious (LMA) group activated regions related to the encoding and retrieval processes of the WM. Functional connectivity analysis also reveals that the LMAs’ brain has got more structured cortical networks, with increased connectivity in areas related to WM, like the frontal cortex, while the HMAs’ brain has a more diffused and unstructured network, superimposing the evidence that the structured processes of WM are corrupted.