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Neural evidence for cognitive reappraisal as a strategy to alleviate the effects of math anxiety.

Authors
  • Pizzie, Rachel G1
  • McDermott, Cassidy L2
  • Salem, Tyler G3
  • Kraemer, David J M3
  • 1 PhD in Educational Neuroscience Program, Gallaudet University, 800 Florida Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002, USA.
  • 2 Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6018, USA.
  • 3 Department of Education and Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755, USA.
Type
Published Article
Journal
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Publication Date
Dec 24, 2020
Volume
15
Issue
12
Pages
1271–1287
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsaa161
PMID: 33258958
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

Math anxiety (MA) describes feelings of tension, apprehension and fear that interfere with math performance. High MA (HMA) is correlated with negative consequences, including lower math grades, and ultimately an avoidance of quantitative careers. Given these adverse consequences, it is essential to explore effective intervention strategies to reduce MA. In the present functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, we investigated the efficacy of cognitive reappraisal as a strategy to alleviate the effects of MA. Cognitive reappraisal, an emotion regulation strategy, has been shown to decrease negative affect and amygdala responsivity to stimuli that elicit negative emotion. We compared a reappraisal strategy to participants' natural strategy for solving math problems and analogies. We found that HMA individuals showed an increase in accuracy and a decrease in negative affect during the reappraisal condition as compared to the control condition. During math reappraise trials, increased activity in a network of regions associated with arithmetic correlated with improved performance for HMA individuals. These results suggest that increased engagement of arithmetic regions underlies the performance increases we identify in HMA students when they use reappraisal to augment their math performance. Overall, cognitive reappraisal is a promising strategy for enhancing math performance and reducing anxiety in math anxious individuals. © The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press.

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