Contact Us

Doing Math Really Does Make Your Head Hurt, Says Science

hard math problem

Can trying to solve math problems actually cause you physical pain? According to a new study, the answer is a resounding yes. Well, sort of.

Researchers from the University of Chicago recently discovered that a person attempting to solve math problems might experience physically pain. However, according to their findings, rather than the math problem itself, it is more the anticipation of the equation that actually inflicts the painful duress.

To come to this conclusion, researchers hooked 28 individuals to MRIs and examined the contrast between high-math-anxiety individuals and low-math-anxiety individuals. Both groups were challenged to determine if problems like “(12-4)+19=25″ were accurate, or whether or a series of letters, like “retupmoc,” would correctly spell a word if the series were reversed. Researchers implemented a color and shape system to give participants notice as to what type of problem they would be asked to solve next: a yellow circle for math problem, and a blue square for word problem.

What they found was that part of the brain associated with delivering pain (the posterior insula) was activated each time participants in the high-math-anxiety group saw a yellow circle appear on the screen. Interestingly, reaction to that part of the brain subsided after participants began to actually work on the math problem. The same diminishing pain reaction happened in these people when given an indication that they would only be required to solve a word problem.

Researchers say that their findings indicate that anxiety toward math, not the math problem itself, is what causes some people physical pain.

[Medical Daily]

Best of Newstalk 1280

Recommended For You

Best of the Web

It appears that you already have an account created within our VIP network of sites on . To keep your personal information safe, we need to verify that it's really you. To activate your account, please confirm your password. When you have confirmed your password, you will be able to log in through Facebook on both sites.

Forgot your password?

*Please note that your prizes and activities will not be shared between programs within our VIP network.

It appears that you already have an account on this site associated with . To connect your existing account just click on the account activation button below. You will maintain your existing VIP profile. After you do this, you will be able to always log in to using your original account information.

*Please note that your prizes and activities will not be shared between programs within our VIP network.

Please fill out the information below to help us provide you a better experience.

(Forgot your password?)

Not a member? Sign up here

Sign up for Newstalk VIPs quickly by connecting your Facebook account. It's just as secure and no password to remember!

Sign up to have exclusive Newstalk VIPs contests, events, coupons, presales, and much more delivered to you for FREE.