Education

Sex, physics, and anxiety

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Science  17 Jan 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6475, pp. 261
DOI: 10.1126/science.367.6475.261-a

Sex-related differences in neural mechanisms (within the colored brain regions) drive how anxiety is related to STEM learning.

PHOTO: A. A. GONZALEZ ET AL., NPJ SCI. LEARN. 4, 18 (2019)

Anxiety negatively affects academic performance, but little is known about the neural mechanisms underlying anxiety and STEM learning. To develop a more complete model of anxiety-related mechanisms and learning strategies, Gonzalez et al. evaluated anxiety and large-scale brain connectivity in 101 undergraduate physics students, collecting both self-reporting questionnaire and neuroimaging data. Results identified sex-specific relationships between STEM anxiety and brain connectivity, with male students exhibiting distinct internetwork connectivity for STEM and clinical anxiety and female students demonstrating no significant within-sex correlations. Using these data together with additional study results, the authors show that sex differences in brain networks are not fixed and that STEM anxiety is related to changes in both female and male students' brains during the physics-learning process.

NPJ Sci. Learn. 4, 18 (2019)

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