Fear of maths can activate parts of the brain linked with the experience of physical pain, a study has found.
The higher a person’s anxiety of a maths task, the more it boosts activity in parts of the brain associated with visceral threat detection, and often the experience of pain itself, according to researchers Ian Lyons and Sian Beilock, in the journal Plos One.
The authors say previous research has shown that other forms of psychological stress, such as social rejection or a traumatic break-up, can also elicit feelings of physical pain.
However, they say their study examines pain responses associated with anticipating an anxiety-provoking event, rather than the pain associated with a stressful event itself.
The authors say their results indicate the maths task itself is not painful but merely the thought of it is highly unpleasant to certain people.