Math Anxiety Mediates the Link Between Number Sense and Math Achievements in High Math Anxiety Young Adults.

In the past few years, many studies have suggested that subjects with high sensory precision in the processing of non-symbolic numerical quantities (approximate number system; ANS) also have higher math abilities. At the same time, there has been interest in another non-cognitive factor affecting mathematical learning: mathematical anxiety (MA). MA is defined as a debilitating emotional reaction to mathematics that interferes with the manipulation of numbers and the solving of mathematical problems. Few studies have been dedicated to uncovering the interplay between ANS and MA and those have provided conflicting evidence. Here we measured ANS precision (numerosity discrimination thresholds) in a cohort of university students with either a high (>75th percentile; n = 49) or low (<25th percentile; n = 39) score on the Abbreviate Math Anxiety Scale (AMAS). We also assessed math proficiency using a standardized test (MPP: Mathematics Prerequisites for Psychometrics), visuo-spatial attention capacity by means of a Multiple Objects Tracking task (MOT) and sensory precision for non-numerical quantities (disk size). Our results confirmed previous studies showing that math abilities and ANS precision correlate in subjects with high math anxiety. Neither precision in size-discrimination nor visuo-spatial attentional capacity were found to correlate with math capacities. Interestingly, within the group with high MA, our data also revealed a relationship between ANS precision and MA, with MA playing a key role in mediating the correlation between ANS and math achievement. Taken together, our results suggest an interplay between extreme levels of MA and the sensory precision in the processing of non-symbolic numerosity.

Motor Adaptation Distorts Visual Space.

It has been suggested that the human visual system exploits an adaptable metric to implement a precise but plastic spatial representation. Indeed, adapting to a dense dot-texture reduces the apparent separation of subsequently presented dots pairs. Whether this metric is purely visual or shared between senses is still unknown. Here we present a new cross-modal after-effect revealing that the metric with which the visual system computes the relative spatial position of objects is shared with the motor system. A few seconds of mid-air self-produced tapping movements (adaptation) yielded a robust compression of the apparent separation of dot pairs subsequently displayed around the tapping region. This visuo-motor spatial metric could reflect an efficient functional architecture to program and execute actions aimed at efficient interaction with the objects in the environment.