Mathematics, anxiety, and the brain

Ahmed A. Moustafa*, Richard Tindle, Zaheda Ansari, Margery J. Doyle, Doaa H. Hewedi, Abeer Eissa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
165 Downloads (Pure)


Given that achievement in learning mathematics at school correlates with work and social achievements, it is important to understand the cognitive processes underlying abilities to learn mathematics efficiently as well as reasons underlying the occurrence of mathematics anxiety (i.e. feelings of tension and fear upon facing mathematical problems or numbers) among certain individuals. Over the last two decades, many studies have shown that learning mathematical and numerical concepts relies on many cognitive processes, including working memory, spatial skills, and linguistic abilities. In this review, we discuss the relationship between mathematical learning and cognitive processes as well as the neural substrates underlying successful mathematical learning and problem solving. More importantly, we also discuss the relationship between these cognitive processes, mathematics anxiety, and mathematics learning disabilities (dyscalculia). Our review shows that mathematical cognition relies on a complex brain network, and dysfunction to different segments of this network leads to varying manifestations of mathematical learning disabilities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-429
Number of pages13
JournalReviews in the Neurosciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2017
Externally publishedYes


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